Duterte to sign rice tariffication bill despite opposition

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is slated to sign the bill lifting restrictions on rice importations despite opposition from industry stakeholders, Malacañang said on Thursday, February 7.

The President met Wednesday, February 6 with rice industry stakeholders, who urged that certain provisions of the bill be vetoed.

They raised concern that the measure would affect the farmers' livelihood and availaility of rice for poor consumers.

"Well, the long and short of it is that those he (Duterte) met last night were against [the rice tariffication bill]," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

"But according to the President, the policy would be to the greater good. Yun ang ibibigay niya. So kahit na kumontra sila, mukhang itutuloy niya (That's what he wants. So despite the opposition, he would push through with the signing)," he added.

In October last year, the President certified the rice tariffication bill as urgent to address the urgent need to improve rice supply in the country, prevent artificial rice shortage, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.

A month after the certification of the measure as urgent, the bicameral conference committee ratified the report on the proposed measure aimed at lifting quantitative restrictions on rice importation and allowing private traders to import commodity from countries of their choice.

Under the bill, a 25-percent duty will be imposed on rice imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-states, while a 50-percent rate will apply to imports from non-members of the regional bloc.

The measure would also create the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or a special rice buffer fund with an initial P10-billion annual fund, in a bid to ensure rice production competitiveness.

Asked as to when Duterte would sign the rice tarrification bill, Panelo merely said: "It would be forthcoming." (SunStar Philippines)


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