Villar: Rice law in full swing soon
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - April 14, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar said that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the newly-signed Rice Tariffication Law will be out as the country will be in full swing in liberalizing the  rice importation as part of the country’s agreement with the World Trade Organization.

“Hindi naman natin gusto na paluwagin yung importation of rice. Kaya lang nag sign tayo ng agreement with WHO in 1995 that they will allow us the control of the importation for 22 years at nag expire na yan in 2017. So, we have to liberalize because that is our agreement with WHO,” the senator said during her recent visit to Cebu.

Villar said that with the new law, we can expect lowering in the price of rice and more funds for farmer’s mechanization as one way of improving local rice production.

Villar said that with this, imported rice will be taxed and the taxes paid by the importers will be used to augment the needs of the local farmers by way of trainings, mechanization of rice farming, hybrid seeds, among others.

Meanwhile, Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara urged the government to ensure that support and benefits for farmers under the newly enacted law reach farm workers to help them cope with the lifting of the quantitative restrictions on rice imports aimed at lowering the cost of rice to a level more affordable for Filipinos.

“The government must ensure that support measures under the law will be fully realized for the benefit of our local rice farmers,” Angara said in a statement.

Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act lifts the import restrictions on rice, subject to 35 percent tariff for rice from the ASEAN and 50 percent for rice from non-ASEAN countries.

Angara said that the law has built-in safeguards to protect local farmers from the impact of a free flow of imports.

“Habang pinaluluwag natin ang patakaran sa pag-angkat ng bigas para gawing abot-kaya ang halaga nito, kailangan din nating bigyan ng ayuda ang mga magsasaka para sila ay maging produktibo at kayang makipagsabayan sa rice importers,” Angara said.

Angara said that a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund will be created under the law. Initial funding of P10 billion for the RCEF will be included in the General Appropriations Act.

The RCEF seeks to provide various forms of assistance to rice farmers, such as development of inbred rice seeds, rice farm equipment and skills enhancement.

The fund will serve as a special safeguard to protect the rice industry, which will be distributed, accordingly — 50 percent for machinery and equipment; 30 percent for rice seed development, propagation and promotion; 10 percent for expanded rice credit assistance; and 10 percent for rice extension services. — MBG (FREEMAN)

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