By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Agriculture (DA) will no longer come up with a decision on the study it supposedly did to identify whether the Rice Tariffication Law or RA 11203 has indeed caused injury to the local rice sector.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the result of the study would have served as the basis of the DA to impose safeguard measures versus the increasing amount of imported rice entering the country.
If implemented, the safeguard measures would have also been the agency’s boldest move to address the declining price of palay.
“We studied the possibility to tap safeguard measures. The decision by the DA is to have this discussed first with the Economic Development Cluster [EDC],” Dar told reporters on Friday.
“We terminated the first process and we will actively discuss this with EDC on October 24. So this [first study] is terminated, that is the decision,” he added.
Dar was supposed to come up with the result of the study sometime this week.
Under the Section 10 of Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act (RA) 11203, in order to protect the Philippine rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations, a special safeguard duty on rice shall be imposed in accordance with Safeguard Measures Act.
Under RA 11203, importers are allowed to bring in any volume of rice at any time. If it’s coming from ASEAN countries, the tariff would only be 35 percent.
Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said earlier a supply glut could push this tariff rate to as high as 180 percent if local farmers are already suffering from the oversupply of the staple.
In a previous interview, Dar did acknowledge that RA 11203 already resulted to an overwhelming amount of rice imports to the detriment of Filipino rice farmers.
“We believe we have imported enough rice and additional imports should be looked at differently. We have too much supply as we have already imported 2.4 million tons since March,” he said.
There is now a growing call from groups like Action for Economic Reforms (AER) and senators, led by Francis Pangilinan, for the DA to act on the declining price of palay as a result of RA 11203.
The average farmgate price of palay recently fell to its lowest level in eight years. Palay prices slipped by 30.1 percent from P22.84 per kilogram (/kg) during the third week of September last year to P15.96/kg in the same period this year.
Week-on-week, this was a 1.4 percent decline from previous week’s level of P16.18/kg.