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Palace defends lowering of tariffs for rice imports
Executive Order No. 135 signed by Duterte last May 15 reduced the most favored nation tariff rates on imported rice to 35 percent from 40 percent (in-quota) and 50 percent (out-quota) for one year, citing the “increase in global rice prices” and the “uncertainties relative to the supply of rice.”
STAR/Michael Varcas, file

Palace defends lowering of tariffs for rice imports

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday defended President Duterte’s decision to lower the tariff rates on imported rice, saying it is necessary to ensure enough supply of the commodity.

Executive Order No. 135 signed by Duterte last May 15 reduced the most favored nation tariff rates on imported rice to 35 percent from 40 percent (in-quota) and 50 percent (out-quota) for one year, citing the “increase in global rice prices” and the “uncertainties relative to the supply of rice.”

The EO also claimed that the global economic situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors affecting the country’s traditional sources of imported rice cause uncertainty in rice supply.

The Federation of Free Farmers has criticized the EO, saying there is no need to diversify the Philippines’ foreign sources of rice because under the Rice Tariffication Law, importers may bring in rice from any country as long as they pass quarantine regulations.

There is no urgent need to increase the Philippines’ rice supply and there is no emergency that has to be addressed, the farmers group added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government wants to ensure that climate change won’t affect the country’s rice supply.

“We are just making sure that we will have enough supply of rice because perhaps, we can afford to have a supply lack in the food we eat but not rice. And you have seen the impact of the dry season. We do not know what will be its effect on our crops but I am sure it will have an effect,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“It is just to ensure that the adverse consequences of climate change won’t result in lack of rice supply,” he added.

Duterte also signed EO 134 which further modified the rates of import duty on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine.

The order repealed EO 128 which temporarily reduced the tariff rates for pork meat for one year on a graduated basis, from 30 percent (in-quota) and 40 percent (out-quota) to 5 percent (in-quota) and 15 percent (out-quota) for the first three months, and 10 percent (in-quota) and 20 percent (out-quota) from the fourth to 12th month.

Under EO 134, the reduced tariff rates under EO 128 will be increased to 10 percent (in-quota) and 20 percent (out-quota) for the first three months, and 15 percent (in-quota) and 25 percent (out-quota) from the fourth to 12th month.

Officials have said the adjusted tariff rates seek to “strike a balance between the objective of making pork products available and affordable, and the concerns of all stakeholders, especially the recovery of the local hog industry.”

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