January 31, 2023

Senator Francis Pangilinan on Friday urged the government to immediately implement the agriculture special safeguards under Republic Act 8800 to protect the local rice industry and producers from increased imports.

Pangilinan made the call after the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the average farm-gate price of unhusked rice has slid to its lowest in eight years at PHP15.96 for the third week of September.

“This has already been triggered by a volume or price threshold of imports. In the September 25 budget hearing of the DOF [Department of Finance], Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez said the tariffs collected has breached the PHP10-billion mark,” Pangilinan said.

The lawmaker proposed to increase the rice tariffs from the current 35 percent to 47 percent.

“Mababa pa rin itong 47 percent sa sinasabi ng Philrice na patas na taripang 70 percent. Pero kahit papano, makakatulong na ito sa ating mga magsasaka (In fact, 47 percent is lower than the proposal of Philrice to impose a fair rice tariff of 70 percent. But at the very least, my suggestion would help our local farmers),” he said.

“Pinapayagan itong tinatawag na ‘regular safeguards’ at ‘agriculture special safeguards’ sa ilalim ng mga patakaran ng WTO [World Trade Organization] at maging ng ating mga batas (These ‘regular safeguards’ and ‘agriculture special safeguards’ are allowed under the WTO rules and even in our existing laws),” he added.

The senator also sought the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2, allowing PHP13-billion immediate cash assistance to rice farmers.

The PHP13 billion is identified from the fund balance of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 national budget and the collected tariffs from rice importation as direct emergency cash assistance for rice farmers.“Huwag namang hintaying mamatay ang kabayong nagpapakain sa buong bayan (Let’s not wait for the death of the horse that feeds the nation),” he said. (PNA)