15% rice import tariff reduction by NEDA done without consultation

15% rice import tariff reduction by NEDA done without consultation

SENATOR Imee Marcos and the farmers’ group SINAG have strongly opposed the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA’s) recommendation to reduce the rice import tariff to 15%.

According to both parties, no consultation occurred with the agriculture sector, particularly with local farmers.

This was the main topic in a roundtable discussion with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders held at the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Nueva Ecija.

“The process for reducing tariffs typically involves consultation with all sectors, so I was surprised because no sector was consulted, yet such a recommendation was suddenly made. Even though they say it is just a recommendation, we see that such recommendations are quickly converted into laws, which worries us all,” according to Sen. Imee Marcos.

Rosendo So, Chairman of the farmers’ group SINAG, said the farmers were surprised by NEDA’s decision to lower the tariff to 15%.

Under normal procedures, a consultation should first be conducted, followed by a presentation to the Tariff Commission before NEDA makes a recommendation to the president.

So, there is also a concern that lowering the tariff could push the countries from which we import rice to increase their prices due to higher demand.

“Remember, they reduced the rice tariff three years ago from 50-35 percent for non-ASEAN countries. But what India and Pakistan did was increase their prices. So, if Vietnam and Thailand do the same, it’s like we are subsidizing the farmers from Vietnam and Thailand. Because we lowered the tariff here, they might raise their prices,” said Rosendo So, Chairman, SINAG.

Moreover, the senator was surprised why the tariff reduction is set until 2028.

She pointed out that sudden tariff reductions are only done as an emergency power for emergency situations.

“As far as I know, it is always for a period of six months to one year because it is a mere emergency measure. What kind of emergency measure lasts until 2028? It’s like you’ve buried the local farmers for four and a half years. There is no hope for them anymore. We have already given up on them. It’s no longer an emergency. It’s almost five years. Is that right?” Sen. Imee added.

The senator also stated that it is not yet time to investigate this issue. She however challenged NEDA to release a cost analysis to determine if rice prices in the country would indeed decrease with the tariff reduction.

“It is probably not yet time to investigate. Firstly, they said that’s it, then they said it’s just a recommendation. Maybe this afternoon they will say they will listen to all of us,” she concluded.

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