By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The bill that would allow the unimpeded importation of rice has been transmitted to Palace.
The Senate, on Tuesday, sent to the Office of the President the harmonized version of Senate Bill 1998 and House Bill 7735, or the proposed rice tariffication law, which seeks to replace the quantitative import restrictions with tariffs and lift the quantitative restriction on rice exports.
The measure was ratified by both Houses of Congress in November last year. It would lapse into law if President Duterte fails to act on the measure – either sign or veto the bill – after 30 days.
The bill seeks to amend the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996.
Aside from liberalizing rice imports, it would also create the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is expected to protect the local rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations.
The RCEF shall have an initial annual appropriation of P10 billion until all duties collected from the importation of rice can replace it.
Tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion shall be appropriated by Congress based on a menu of programs in the rice tariffication bill.
The fund would be used to provide assistance to rice farmers such as the development of inbred rice seeds, the development of rice farm equipment and skills enhancement.
The government expects the unrestricted rice tariffication to help address soaring inflation.