Agri groups file SC petition to block the implementation of PBBM’s EO 62

Agri groups file SC petition to block the implementation of PBBM’s EO 62

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr, Executive Order (EO) No. 62, which reduces the tariff on imported rice from the current 35% to 15%, is set to take effect this week.

However, major agricultural groups and associations in the Philippines, such as Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA), and Magsasaka PL, insisted that the EO is unconstitutional.

They argue that the directive did not undergo consultations or hearings, and its potential impact on farmers and local production was not adequately considered.

Consequently, these groups have filed a petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with the Supreme Court. They seek an immediate Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to halt the implementation of the executive order.

“We do not question the delegated power of the president to issue EO in so far as the tariff is concerned. But the exercise in the issuance of the EO  62 is illegal and invalid and unconstitutional. Because it did not undergo the required investigation mandated by law,” said Atty. Virgie Lacsa Suarez, Legal Counsel, SINAG.

“It did not go through proper consultations, which, according to the law, requires the president’s power to undergo a process that NEDA did not present,” said Rosendo So, Chairman, SINAG.

According to agricultural groups, reducing the tariff on imported rice to 15 percent poses risks for the Philippines.

They argue that this move will weaken the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) revenue collection from tariffs and there is no guarantee that rice prices will decrease, especially if exporters decide to raise their prices.

They point out that some countries have already increased prices in anticipation of the Philippines importing a large quantity of rice.

“Because Thailand and Vietnam are currently harvesting, prices should have dropped by now. However, when they heard about the tariff reduction, they did not lower their prices. This means that global market prices did not decrease as expected. It’s possible they might even increase further, especially since India and Pakistan have raised their prices,” said Rosendo So.

“The trade worth is only around 10%, so any increases in volume, especially if our country procures one million metric tons for this year if the tariff is lowered, of course, exporting countries will raise their prices. What will happen is that our tariff cut will benefit foreign farmers because instead of the 35% tariff, we lowered it to 15%, and all the exporting country did was raise their prices, resulting in losses for our farmers here,” he added.

They also fear the shrinking of local production if the Philippines becomes more reliant on rice imports.

They say many farmers are losing interest in planting rice if it no longer remains profitable for them.

At present, local rice sales have slowed down because traders are waiting for the implementation of the EO.

According to Leonardo Montemayor, Chairman of the Federation of Free Farmers, local farmers are already experiencing financial losses, as the farm gate prices have decreased from P23/kilo to P17 to P18/kilo.

“We expect that many farmers will no longer plant rice in the upcoming season. 500—1000 farmers might not plant at all, and those who do may reduce their production. Our food security will be at risk,” said Leonardo Montemayor, Chairman of the Board, FFF.

Argel Joseph Cabatbat, Chairman of the Farmers’ Partylist, voiced concern that the current hardships faced by farmers could potentially lead to an increase in the suicide rate among them.

“During the [Rice] Tariffication Law, an estimated P70-B was lost by farmers, leading to an increase in suicide rates among them due to financial losses and a sense of helplessness.  Even confirmed by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)—that suicides have increased. If the price of paddy rice falls again and imported rice floods the market, we fear that suicide rates among farmers may rise once more,” said Argel Joseph Cabatbat, Chairman, Magsasaka PL.

Groups assert that the Marcos Admin’s reliance on imports is completely unacceptable, insisting that the country should not depend on its food supply for importation.

“Our entire food supply is now being relied upon for imports. That’s wrong. What is the NEDA’s plan for the next 5 years, for the next 10 years? What is the blueprint for this? Their default solution is to import. Our percentage of imported rice is already very high, so what about our economy? What about the farmers? It’s not possible. It’s not fair to rely on our chances abroad. We need to be self-reliant. We need to be independent. Maybe not now, but in the next 5 years, there should be a clear plan for this,” said Suarez.

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