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Rice tariffication regime to start March 3 —DOF

The tariffed regime on rice imports, along with the transfer of the National Food Authority (NFA) under the Department of Agriculture (DA), is scheduled to start next month, as approved by the NFA Council on Monday.

March 3 is a Sunday and that is when the tariffs on rice importation will be implemented, the Department of Finance (DOF) said in a statement.

“The Council also approved the transfer of the NFA functions to the Department of Agriculture as provided under the rice tariffication law, effective March 3.”

The NFA Council convened on Monday to fine-tune the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the rice tariffication law.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed last week that President Rodrigo Duterte approved the measure imposing a 35-percent tariff on imports from neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The measure allows unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff on shipments from 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.

Monday's meeting was led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III as Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who chairs the Council, was unavailable.

During the meeting, the council approved a motion instructing the NFA to submit a restructuring plan within 30 days, instead of an earlier proposal of 180 days.

“Our objective in liberalizing rice imports is to bring down the costs of the staple. Our price is 50 percent higher than the others, including Singapore, which does not produce rice. Will it take us 180 days to effect a reduction in the cost of living of our people?” Dominguez was quoted as saying during the meeting. 

Also present at the meeting were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan, Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, and National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon.

Monetary Board Member Bruce Tolentino, and representatives from the NFA, NEDA, Land Bank of the Philippines, DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Social Welfare and Development also attended the meeting. —VDS, GMA News