Committee approves bill protecting farmers, upholding PH commitment to WTO

The House committee on agriculture and food chaired by Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. (Party-list, ANAC-IP) approved a measure protecting the welfare of the country's rice farmers while at the same time upholding the country's commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Members of the committee adopted a substitute bill to various House measures which seek to amend Republic Act No. 8178, as amended, and adopt the use of tariffs in lieu of non-tariff restrictions on rice.

The substitute bill is entitled An Act Replacing the Quantitative Import Restrictions on Rice with Tariffs, Amending for the Purpose RA 8178, as Amended by RA 9496, Further Amended by RA 10848, Entitled: 'An Act Replacing Quantitative Import Restrictions on Agricultural Products, Except Rice, with Tariffs, Creating the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and for Other Purposes.

The bill provides that the National Food Authority (NFA) shall only undertake the direct importation of rice for the purpose of ensuring food security and maintaining sufficient national buffer stocks. However, for importation other than maintaining buffer stocks, the NFA shall issue import permits among certified and licensed importers.

Moreover, the NFA shall provide guidelines for the exportation of rice and corn by certified and licensed exporters.

The minimum access volume (MAV) will revert to its 2012 level at 350,000 metric tons (MT) as indicated in the country's commitment to the WTO, when the proposed law takes effect.

The bound rate for rice imported into the country shall be set as follows: 35 percent for rice importations originating from ASEAN member-states, in consonance with the ASEAN Trade in Good Agreement (ATIGA); 40 percent MFN rate for importation within the 350,000 MT MAV from Non-ASEAN WTO member countries; and 180 percent MFN out quota rate.

The President of the Philippines is vested with power and authority to adjust the existing rates of import duty and regulate rice imports, subject to the following circumstances: In the interest of the general welfare and national security, upon the recommendation of the NFA Council, may increase, reduce, revise or adjust existing rates of import duty, including any necessary change in classification, applicable to the importation of rice; and whenever there is shortage in the supply of rice and there is an urgent need to act, as certified by the NFA Council.

To protect the Philippine rice industry from sudden or extreme price fluctuations and/or unexpected surges of import of the volume of rice, the President may impose temporary regulations or restrictions on the volume of imports of rice for a temporary period through the imposition of rice safeguard tariff sufficient in level to address the situation.

Moreover, the President, in the interest of the Philippine rice industry as well as of the Filipino consumers, may enter into trade negotiations relating to the bound or maximum rates in relation to rice.

The bill also provides for the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or the Rice Fund which shall consist of all duties collected from the importation of rice under the proposed Act and shall be automatically credited to a Special Account in the General Fund of the National Treasury.

Subject to the accounting and auditing rules and regulations and the availability of funds, the rice fund, with priority accorded to rice-producing areas, shall be allocated and disbursed as follows: Up to 20 percent of the Rice Fund shall be utilized for the establishment of a permanent rice endowment fund; Up to 20 percent of the Rice Fund shall be made available as credit subsidy and/or grants in kind to individual eligible small scale farmers and registered rice cooperatives in the form of small farm equipment; Up to 20 percent of the Rice Fund shall be used for a special program of crop loans, farm inputs, crop insurance, loan guarantees, and other financial assistance to farmers and farm workers; Up to 20 percent of Rice Fund shall be used for post harvest facilities, logistics, storage, transportation facilities, and infrastructure projects; Up to 10 percent of the Rice Fund shall be used for grants for rice farmers, education, scholarships, technical and vocational training of farmers and their dependents; and Up to 10 percent of the Rice Fund shall be used for research and development and extension.

The beneficiaries of the Rice Fund shall be those farmers and farm workers and their dependents listed in the registry system for basic sectors in agriculture (RSBSA).

The substitute bill consolidated HBs 4018, 4904, 5023, 5326, 5433, 5443, and 6190 introduced by Reps. Peter Unabia (1st District, Misamis Oriental), Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga), Cecilia Leonila Chavez (Party-list, BUTIL), Jose Panganiban Jr. (Party-list, ANAC-IP), Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA), and Rico Geron (Party-list, AGAP), respectively.

Source: House of Representatives

Related posts