Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno downplayed the potential impact of reducing the tariff rate on rice imports, saying the government has already collected billions.
“Actually ‘di naman malaki kasi we already collected… Ang na-collect na is P17 billion,” Diokno told reporters during his weekly briefing.
(Actually it’s not huge because we already collected… what has been collected so far is P17 billion.)
The Department of Finance (DOF) earlier proposed temporarily reducing the 35% rice import tariff rates, both ASEAN and MFN (most favored nation) rates, to anywhere from 0% or maximum of 10% "to arrest the surge in rice prices."
The rising rice prices compelled the government to impose an unprecedented price control on the staple through Executive Order No. 39, which mandates a price cap of P41 per kilo for regular milled rice and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.
The Finance chief also stressed that the government only needs to collect P10 billion from rice import tariffs, referring to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
The RCEF, mandated under the Rice Tariffication law, is a P10 billion annual appropriation of P10 billion for six years starting from 2019, which will be sourced from rice import tariffs collected.
The fund will be used to provide farm machinery and equipment, credit assistance, seed development, and training to increase local rice farmers’ yield and competitiveness.
The RCEF is divided among four key programs: rice farm mechanization (P5 billion), seed propagation (P3 billion), rice credit assistance (P1 billion), and extension services (P1 billion).
Rice tariff collections in excess of P10 billion, meanwhile, shall go to the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance Program.
The Tariff Commission, on September 15, conducted a hearing on the proposed reduction of rice import tariff rate to 10% from 35% for six months.
The Federation of Free Farmers, during the hearing, said local farmers stand to lose P88 billion from the tariff reduction plan.
Nevertheless, Diokno said the President will have the final say on the proposal.
“The Tariff Commission will recommend to the CTRM [Committee on Tariff and Related Matters] and then to the Office of the President,” he said.
“The decision has to be made by the President. I think wala pang recommendation ang Tariff Commission,” he added.
The Finance chief noted that “the President can only adjust the tariff when Congress is not in session.”
“The Congress will recess by September 29,” Diokno said. — BM, GMA Integrated News