IMF backs PH move to junk rice quota, adopt tariffication
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) supports the Philippine government’s bid to implement rice tariffication instead of the rice importation quota system but stressed the need to safeguard the welfare of small farmers.
In a statement, the lender said: “Directors welcomed the progress made by the authorities on structural reforms and encouraged them to deepen the reform efforts in seeking broader economic benefits.”
It said the IMF officials “supported the authorities’ plan to replace the rice import quota system with one based on tariffs, while emphasizing the need to support small farmers affected by the reform.”
An official of the Department of Finance (DOF) said the proposed rice taffication measure has a provision that would set aside revenues from rice tariffs to benefit small farmers.
“Yes, the version of the bill that the Economic Development Cluster strongly supports includes a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to be initially funded by the GAA and eventually by the tariff,” DOF Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino told PNA.
He said the measure authored by Senator Cynthia Villar provides for a P10 billion annual subsidy, which will initially be sourced from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget until the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is sufficient to support the rice sector.
The version of the bill at the House of Representatives “earmarks all tariff revenues” for the farmers, he said.
Members of the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill 7735, or the proposed Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act, last August 14.
Economic managers are urging lawmakers to pass the proposed bill, which has been certified by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as a priority measure, to ensure supply of rice in the country.
Rice tariffication is being pushed more vigorously now that prices of rice is increasing and has pushed inflation up.
Rice accounts for about 9.6 percent in the consumer price index (CPI) basket.
Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said liberalizing rice importation will be a big help to the poor, noting that rice accounts for 20 percent of low-income households’ consumption. (PNA)