July 20, 2019
AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on Friday insisted that the Rice Tariffication Act needs to be reviewed.
At the sidelines of 2018 Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) awarding of Most Outstanding Coastal Community in Siquijor, Piñol cited initial problems deeply hurting local farmers upon the implementation of the new rice regime.
“You know there’s only one law in this universe that cannot be changed or amended. That’s the divine law; the 10 commandments. All laws that people made can be changed, not for the purpose of thrashing it but for the purpose of improving it,” Piñol said.
His statement came after Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd, President Duterte’s chief economic manager, on Thursday dismissed calls by rice industry stakeholders to review Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law.
Such calls, however, were backed by the Department of Agriculture (DA), following Piñol’s dialogue with farmers who complained over very low prices of palay (unhusked rice) that has reached to as low as P12 per kilo in some provinces.
Piñol said despite the influx of imported rice in the country, prices of rice being sold in the market remain unchanged or drop minimally. “The intention of [the law] is good [and that is to] bring down the price of rice and at the same time ensure food security. But right now, we don’t see the results that we expected. The price of rice, whether they admit it or not, remains very high. So where is the spirit of RTL? That’s why we would like to review it not because we want to rescind it but because we want the people to feel the true spirit of the RTL which was the intention of the president. So we need to see that the price of rice in the market would go down by P7 as committed,” Piñol explained.
The plummeting farmgate prices of palay could result in an estimated P114 billion in losses to local farmers for the whole year, he earlier said.
“One of the loopholes actually is who supervises the pricing of imported rice…The assumption upon the entry of imported rice is prices of rice will go down in the market [but] that did not happen.
What happened was the price of local palay dropped because right now the importers enjoy the big profit,” thus the need to review RA 11203, said Piñol.
While farmers are assured of at least P10 billion each year under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) component of RA 11203, Piñol also lamented the delayed release of funds hampering supposedly immediate interventions to farmers affected by the rice tariffication program.
With P10 billion, the DA through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) will provide farmers with machinery and equipment worth P5 billion, free high-yielding seeds worth P3 billion from Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), P1 billion for credit and P1 billion in training through the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).
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