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NFA Council to meet Monday to discuss IRR of rice tariffication law

The National Food Authority Council is set to meet on Monday, February 18, to start fine-tuning the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the rice tariffication law.

In an interview on GMA Super Radyo dzBB on Sunday, NFA OIC Administrator Tomas Escarez said the NFA Council will meet tomorrow to start discussions on the IRR of the law which removed the quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

"Bukas ng umaga, magco-convene ang NFA Council para i-finalize... para dito sa implementing rules and regulations," he said.

"Kasama kami sa technical working group pero 'yung final decision dito ay magsisimula sa NFA Council," added Escarez.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo last week confirmed that Duterte approved the measure that would effectively impose a 25-percent tariff on imports from neighbors in Southeast Asia.

Among those to be discussed, according to Escarez, are the "gray areas" regarding the future of the NFA and what the agency's mandate would be moving forward.

According to Escarez, it is still unclear if the regulatory powers of the NFA would be removed, and if it would instead be confined to ensuring that the country has a sufficient buffer stock to cater to the Philippines' demands.

"Kung iko-confine kami sa buffer-stocking, titignan natin 'yung optimal level na kailangang i-maintain," said Escarez.

The measure allows unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phyto-sanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The law earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, of which P5 billion will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings. The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood. —Jon Viktor Cabuenas/LBG, GMA News