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Gov’t shelves safeguard duty in favor of P5,000 cash gift to rice farmers —Dar

The government has set aside plans to impose safeguard duties on rice imports to shield farmers from the impact of rice trade liberalization, but will instead give affected farmers a one-time cash gift, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Friday.

The Cabinet did not endorse the safeguard duties on imported rice, because of inflationary concerns.

“Pinresent ko dun sa Cabinet ‘yung potential of looking at general safeguards duty,” Dar told reporters on the sidelines of Philippines-India Trade Consultations in Makati City.

“Ang decision ng Cabinet ay baka may inflationary effect. So ang dinecide ng Gabinete ay magbigay ng cash assistance,” the Agriculture chief noted.

An estimated 600,000 rice farmers will receive the cash assistance in December.

The Rice Tariffication Law removed quantitative restrictions on rice imports and imposed a 35% tariff on imports from Southeast Asia.

The unimpeded importation of rice has brought down the farmgate price of palay to P7 per kilo after rice tariffication was implemented earlier this year, prompting farmers to seek government intervention.

The law mandated the creation of a Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to help farmers face the unrestricted flow of imported rice into the country.

The P10-billion RCEF fund includes P5 billion allotted to farm mechanization, and P3 billion to procure seedlings.

Dar said the financial assistance amounting to P5,000 per small farmer who till less than one hectare will be sourced from excess tariff collected from rice imports.

“Doon sa mga magsasaka na one hectare and below, rice farmers, ay mabibigyan ng P5,000 cash assistance. One time lang ito. Hoping this can be given before Christmas,” Dar said.

Nearly P11 billion has so far been collected from rice importations.

“So by the end of the year the excess will be used. Even by the end of the year, pupunuan muna at bibigay na ‘yung cash assistance. We’re now drafting the guidelines,” Dar noted.

“Para magaan naman ang Christmas.”

“We’re looking forward to giving to 600,000 farmers, P5,000 each farmer, so about P3 billion, Dar said.”

The Cabinet official clarified that the government is not totally scrapping the safeguard duties on rice imports.

“Nandiyan palagi. Fallback ‘yun,” Dar said. —VDS, GMA News