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Congress urged: Revoke order on rice tariffs
In a letter to the Senate and the House of Representatives, Federation of Free Farmers national manager Raul Montemayor sought the intercession of Congress in voiding EO 135, citing that the grounds for the order were baseless and unjustified.
Edd Gumban, file

Congress urged: Revoke order on rice tariffs

Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - May 19, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture groups are appealing to both houses of Congress to investigate and suspend Executive Order 135 signed by President Duterte on May 15 that lowered tariff rates for rice imports, both below and above the minimum access volume (MAV).

In a letter to the Senate and the House of Representatives, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) national manager Raul Montemayor sought the intercession of Congress in voiding EO 135, citing that the grounds for the order were baseless and unjustified.

“We submit that the reduction of rice import tariffs is totally unjustified and the claimed reasons for the issuance of the EO are baseless. We also question the manner by which the tariff reduction was surreptitiously and improperly done,” Montemayor said.

Under EO 135, tariff rates on imported rice will be lowered for one year to diversify the country’s market sources, increase rice supply and maintain stable prices.

“There is no need to reduce tariffs nor is there any assurance that imports from non-ASEAN countries will increase simply because of a lowering of tariffs on their rice exports,” Montemayor explained.

Montemayor stressed that the country’s rice inventories and projected domestic production figures are stable. He also argued that reducing tariffs will result in a significant loss of tariff revenues and reduction in the funds intended for farmer programs.

Agriculture group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) also agreed with FFF’s position.

“Like a thief in the night, we were all surprised to read EO 135 that significantly reduced the tariff rates on rice. This was done behind our backs, as we, stakeholders, the Philippine Senate and the economic team of the government were forging a compromise on the MAV allocation and pork tariff rates,” SINAG chair Rosendo So said.

On Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque defended the issuance of the EO 135, saying that it is necessary to ensure enough supply of rice.

“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.

For her part, Sen. Grace Poe called on the government’s economic team to “walk the talk” and ensure that prices of pork and rice are kept affordable amid recommendations to cut tariff rates.

“Our people expect the government’s economic team to live up to their avowed tenet of fiscal responsibility by seeing to it that actual benefits trickle down to Filipino families and not just to importers,” Poe said.

“Will the tariff slash actually result in lower prices in public markets and groceries? Can the people actually feel it?” she added.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE RICE
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