A consumer group warned about the Rice Tariffication Law's immediate effects on poor households by the time low-cost NFA rice disappears from the shelves completely.
"Sa tingin po namin, over a period of time, maaring tama 'yung forecast ng pamahalaan. Pero immediately ngayon, short-term, mukhang hindi pa kaya ng mga consumer yung P36 na imported na well-milled rice. Alam naman 'yan, pina-patronize ng mga consumer, lalo na po 'yung poor sector, ay 'yung P27 at P32 lang ang NFA," Laban Konsyumer, Inc. president Vic Dimagiba said in an interview on "Balitanghali" on Wednesday.
The law, which will replace the quantitative restriction on rice imports to allow the unlimited importation of rice by private sector traders paying a 35-percent tariff on shipments from Southeast Asia, is set to take effect next month.
"So 'yun ang challenge sa Rice Tariffication Law—masa-substitute ba nila 'yung ibinebenta ng pamahalaan na murang bigas? Kasi po, kung hindi, magkakaroon muna tayo ng imbalance. 'Yung imbalance, parang shock 'yan eh. May shock 'yan sa mahihirap na consumer na biglang wala na silang mahahanap o mabibiling NFA rice," Dimagiba added.
He also expressed concern over the hazy reassurance that imported rice would be sold locally at a low price, saying that the National Food Authority (NFA) had been mandated to sell at low prices even if they bought the rice at a high price.
"May mandate dati ... they have a mandate to buy high and sell low. Ewan ko 'tong mga negosyante kung anong gagawin nila. Sana hindi po natin dapat ipangako agad. Kasi ang dami pong namomonitor, nangako kaagad, P32, hahanapin po ng consumer yan. Tignan mo, wala namang makita na P32," he said.
"Sayang. Maganda yung batas, yung principle, maganda po siya...pero mamigay lang po sana ng transitition period," he added.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed last week that President Rodrigo Duterte approved the Rice Tarrification Law.
The NFA had said the state-subsidized rice, which was priced at P27 per kilo, would only be available in markets until August of this year. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News