RICE importers are still required to secure permits from the National Food Authority (NFA) even as the exemption from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has expired, an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Davao insisted.

DA-Davao regional director Remelyn Recoter, in an interview at the Apo View Hotel recently, said that in connection with the contention of Joseph Ngo who has a pending case before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 16, a private entity cannot question the provision of the Gatt since the WTO is a multinational organization composed of member governments.

Thus, it should be the government who should raise the dispute to WTO in behalf of that private entity, Recoter said. READ: Davao Customs Bureau ordered not to hold rice shipment

"From our end, we are committed to the minimum access volume (MAV) which is limited to around 350,000 metric tons of rice imports. And of course, as part of the procedure in clearing the rice imports from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), importers should secure a permit from the NFA who is one of the monitoring bodies of the MAV," he said.

Recoter re-echoed the contention of the NFA that Ngo should not question the provisions of Gatt but rather focus on the laws of the country.

The director also said the country has a pending request for the extension of the quantitative restrictions on rice imports so importers should not take advantage of this as excessive importations will cripple local farmers.

"Hopefully, the rice smuggling would be stopped since initially it will hurt our local farmers and in turn, the government will incur deficits in taxes," Recoter added.