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DA looking into calls for repeal of Rice Tariffication Law

The Department of Agriculture currently headed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will look into calls for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law, Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista said on Wednesday.

In an interview on Balitanghali, Evangelista said the DA was also looking into other programs which were not working.

Critics of the RTL have said that the law failed to lower the cost of rice and made life even more difficult for local farmers due to the entry of cheaper imports.

“Ito po ay patuloy na pinagaaralan po ng kagawaran, we are looking at the effect of RTL sa ating mga producers at ating mga consumers also," Evangelista said.

"Ito po ay ating tinutuunan ng pansin at we are carefully studying what are the other programs that we have to implement para mas makatulong pa sa ating magsasaka,” she added.

(The department is carefully studying it and we are looking at the effects of RTL on our producers and our consumers as well. This is what we are focusing on and we are carefully studying what other programs we have to implement to help our farmers.)

Asked when the study will be completed, Evangelista said, “Sa ngayon po lahat ay catchup lang and we have to fix things, programs that are not working. We have to tweak them and fix them right away.” 

(Right now, we're just playing catch-up and we have to fix things, programs that are not working. We have to tweak them and fix them right away.)

“So we are giving ourselves deadlines and this year is very important, the remaining months of the year," she added.

"We are expected to become more resilient as a department to be able to adjust to the needs of our stakeholders as well,” Evangelista said.

Then President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019 signed the RTL which removed the quantitative restrictions on rice and imposing a 35-percent tariff on imports from the country's neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The measure allows the unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secured a phytosanitary 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.

Evangelista said that the farm-to-market road (FMR) masterplan was important to the country’s “supply chain” after some groups expressed concerns that it would only be beneficial to farmers if they had land security.

“That is something that we can explore further together with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) because FMR is something that is very important pagdating po sa pag-aayos natin sa ating value chain," Evangelista said.

The DA undersecretary said that food mobilization was one of the priorities of the department.

During his meeting with DA officials, Marcos said the FMR masterplan would serve as a guide for the government in promoting food security and empowering rural communities.

He said the masterplan should include regional maps which would indicate the exact locations of the farm-to-market roads that would be constructed. —NB, GMA News