The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday stood firmly behind Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) which it said is a “superior policy instrument” in addressing the country’s rice woes.
The RTL helped address soaring inflation by allowing quick access to cheap rice.
“Rice tariffication is more desirable than the lifting of quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports because it is a far superior policy instrument. It is transparent. Any individual or group willing to pay for the tariff can import rice,” the DA said.
It said import quotas or QR are “opaque transactions” and that government-to-government (G-to-G) transactions would open the door to corrupt practices.
With the RTL in place, traders are now allowed to bring in any volume of rice provided they pay a 35 percent tariff based on the declared value of their imports.
The DA said imposing tariff duties on rice imports is required under international trade agreements. It prevents the country from being economically-sanctioned by its trading partners and the primary reason why the economic managers championed its passage.
As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Philippines must comply with its rules. These includes the elimination of trade barriers and liberalized agricultural trade.
The country was previously granted an exemption from the removal of its quotas on rice importation. This exemption was to expire in 2004, but was extended until 2014. It was further stretched until the passage of the RTL in February.
The DA stressed the 20-year grace period for exemption lapsed in 2014 during the term of DA Secretary Proceso Alcala under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III. further extension wasn’t granted.
The government was expected to ramp up efficiency in the rice sector for the duration of the grace period but it failed.
“We resorted to various legal measures such as the declaration of emergency, imposing non-tariff barriers (NTB), or sacrificing more products through lower tariffs in exchange for maintaining the rice QR,” the report noted.
“Currently, the Philippines is not self-sufficient in rice. Hence, we are importing an average of five to 10 percent of our rice requirements, depending on the weather, because we cannot produce enough,” the DA explained.