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Gov’t grants farmers P10-B under the Rice Tarrification Bill

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Friday, 30 November 2018 04:12 PM

FILE PHOTO: Farmers

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday (November 28) ratified the report of the bicameral conference committee on the rice tariffication bill.

The bill aims to lift quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

Instead, importers will be required to pay 35% levy or tariff on rice imports.

“Talagang we have to liberalize because it’s the provision of our agreement with the WTO so we have to tariffy to protect our farmers. Kasi kapag walang tariff, mas mura talaga ang import and the tariff proceeds will go to them for programs that make them competitive,” explained Senator Cynthia Villar, the Senate chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

The measure aims to prevent another shortage of rice supply and to ensure that the low price of commercial rice is maintained in local markets.

Critics of the bill argue that with restrictions on rice importation being lifted under the bill, there will be an oversupply of imported rice in local markets and the ones to suffer the burden first would be the local farmers.

But Villar allayed the farmers’ fears on the matter, saying the government has allotted a P10 billion fund to help them.

“Magbibigay po ang gobyerno ng sampung bilyong piso every year sa susunod na anim na taon para kayo ay maging competitive against import,” Villar assured.

On November 22, the bicameral committee approved the allocation of P10 billion to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund.

This will be utilized for the improvement of farm machinery and equipment, seed production, training for rice farming, and loan programs among other means to help the local farmers.

Several farmers expressed gratitude to the efforts of government to help them sustain their livelihood.

“Iyon po ang pinakagusto kong natalakay ni Ma’am Senator Cythia Villar na magkakaroon ng farm school dahil karamihan ng mga farmers ay wala pang sapat na edukasyon tungkol sa crop production, inter cropping, multicrop production,” said Association of San Felipe Farmers president Joely Reguidon.

“Malaking bagay, dahil nagbibigay sila ng mga traktora, hindi masyadong mahal ang upa, pero mas maganda kung gagabayan ng gobyerno yung upa ng traktora. Kasi sa amin wala na kaming kalabaw, hindi namin naaaffordan yung traktora,” added Rolan, also a member of the farmers’ group.

As of press time, the Rice Tariffication Bill is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte before it fully becomes a law. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

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Rice industry groups call on Duterte to veto rice tariffication bill

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, 14 February 2019 12:26 PM

Rice stakeholders protesting against the rice tarrification bill | UNTV News & Rescue

MANILA, Philippines – Several rice industry groups gathered in Mendiola on Thursday (February 14) to protest against the Rice Tariffication Bill which is only a signature away from becoming a law.

The groups call on the President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the measure, citing the possibility of a phase out of low-priced rice in the market currently distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA).

They fear the removal of NFA’s marketing support to local farmers because it will open an opportunity for traders to take advantage of the situation.

The groups also oppose the removal of NFA’s function to regulate and control the importation of rice because it will lead to rampant smuggling and allow businessmen to manipulate the local rice industry.

They said the government should have a strong regulation and control of rice importation similar to how it regulates the entry of imported garlic, onions and other goods.

“Anumang buwan (ay) tuloy-tuloy ang pagiimport ng bigas. Ito ay masama sa ating ekonomiya lalong lalo na sa farmers,” argued Orly Manuntag, national PRO of the Confederation of Grains Retailers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (GRECON).

With such a bill, the group said, NFA will no longer have its function to inspect private warehouses and confiscate hoarded supply because there will be no proper inventory of stocks.

Once the bill is enacted into law, they argued, it will cost the jobs of some 4,000 employees of the NFA.

The decision to ratify the rice tariffication bill now depends on whether President Duterte will sign or veto the measure which is due to lapse on February 15. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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Diokno: Duterte won’t veto Rice Tariffication Bill

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Thursday, 14 February 2019 10:12 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The Rice Tariffication Bill remains pending in the Office of the President after it was ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives (HOR) earlier last year.

If President Rodrigo Duterte will not veto the proposal, it will lapse into law by Friday (February 15).

The bill aims to replace rice import limits with tariff system to liberalize the process by removing non-tariff barriers.

Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno is confident that President Duterte will not veto the bill.

He also sent a letter to the Office of the President strongly urging the signing of the measure.

“We just sent a memo to the president strongly urging the signing of the Rice Tariffication Bill. I understand there are some strong lobby for veto, but let’s wait. It could either lapse into law or the president will approve it; but certainly a veto is not possible I think,” Diokno said.

Once enacted into law, rice traders no longer have to secure import license from the National Food Authority (NFA) as the agency will lose its regulatory function in rice importation.

The Department of Finance (DOF) will also have to resolve the debt of the National Food Authority (NFA) amounting to P200 billion, according to Diokno.

The budget official also added that the economic managers are looking for ways to improve the agriculture sector.

In 2018, the said sector only contributed zero point one percent in the Philippines’ economic growth.

“We have to put pressure on this sector to improve themselves, and increase productivity because right now, they are not competitive. Our production cost is much higher than the whole price of rice for example,” the Budget Secretary noted.

During the last cabinet meeting of President Duterte, the agenda included discussions on alleviating the lives of farmers and fisherfolks, providing them better access to credit and loan facilities and improving agricultural productivity. – Rosalie Coz

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Senate leadership supports call for Duterte to veto ‘pork insertions’

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, 6 February 2019 05:52 PM


FILE PHOTO: Senate President Vicente Sotto III

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Lawmakers are racing against time to finally pass the P3.7 trillion proposed 2019 national budget as they have until Friday (February 8) to extend session and to finalize the provisions of the bill.

House Committee on Appropriations Chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said the proposed budget may possibly reach the table of President Rodrigo Duterte for signature by next week.

The senators will hold a caucus on Wednesday night to discuss the outcome of discussions at the ongoing bicameral conference committee especially on matters involving the alleged ‘pork insertions’ in the proposed budget.

Once everything is clear, the bill will likely proceed to ratification.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he is likely to support the position of Senator Panfilo Lacson who is calling on President Duterte to veto the alleged ‘pork insertions’ in the bill, if necessary.

“Kung nararapat at kung talagang maliwanag na pork, bakit hindi? Dapat i-veto,” Sotto said.

Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, said the passage of the proposed national budget remains their top priority at this point.

Angara argued that unless the proposed budget is passed, the government will have no choice but to operate with a reenacted budget until July.

“Walang defined item for 2019. Maybe if there are savings in agencies, then they will use that, or there are funds na, unprogrammed funds, hindi natuloy ang project, doon nila kukunin ang pondo,” Angara explained.

Under a reenacted budget, all pending projects of the government for this year will definitely be affected.

Among them is the preparation for the upcoming 2019 midterm elections, specifically the lack of funds for honoraria for teachers who will serve as election officers in the polls. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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