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DA reviewing Rice Tariffication Law, role of NFA

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is reviewing the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) as well as the role of the National Food Authority (NFA) in ensuring food security.

Under the RTL, which allowed liberalized importation of rice, the NFA is only mandated to ensure the sufficient supply of buffer stocks of rice in the Philippines —30 days worth of the country's total consumption during the lean season, and 15 days otherwise.

Before the RTL, the NFA’s role was to regulate the rice sector and was the only agency allowed to import rice shipments into the country.

In an interview on ANC, DA Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista said the agency is studying if the NFA can be allowed to import rice even under a liberalized trading regime.

“That is something being studied and is for further discussion and recommendation,” she said.

In a text message to reporters, the DA official said that under RTL, NFA cannot import.

Thus, she said, “We are reviewing RTL and its positive and negative impacts. The role of NFA is also being reviewed.”

Evangelista earlier said the DA is looking into calls to repeal the RTL.

Critics of the RTL have said 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.

She said, during the ANC interview, that the DA is also focusing on “strengthening the NFA to buy more palay from our farmers because we are pushing for a better yield.”

“Our priority will be increasing local production,” she said.

In February 2019, then President Rodrigo Duterte 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.—AOL, GMA News