MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte is expected to sign the Rice Tariffication Bill, a measure he certified as urgent, anytime soon, MalacaAang said on Wednesday but did not give a specific date.
It has been submitted to the Office of the President. I suppose it will be signed anytime, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo did not give a specific reason why it is taking time before the President signed the bill into law but noted that the President had a lot of other tasks to prioritize.
Let's see if it's there, it will be signed. Ang daming trabaho ni Presidente (The President has a lot of work to do), Panelo said.
It will be signed soon enough, he added.
Agriculture Secretary Manny PiAol earlier said the National Food Authority (NFA) will stop selling the PHP27 per kilo rice should the Rice Tariffication Bill be signed into law.
Sought for a comment, Panelo allayed fears that this would have an adverse effect on NFA rice buyers.
Pag ni-liberalize, magkakaroon ng competition in the market so magpapa-baan sila ng presyo otherwise hindi sila mabibili, di ba? Law of supply and demand 'yan e (When the rice trade is liberalized, there will be competition in the market, so prices will go down, otherwise, they won't be bought. That's law of supply and demand), Panelo said.
On October 10, the President certified the Rice Tariffication Bill as urgent in a letter addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his letter, Duterte said the measure is meant to address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortages, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.
The House of Representatives passed the bill on third and final reading on August 14 while the Senate on November 14.
Meanwhile, the bicameral conference committee approved the bill on November 22.
The Rice Tariffication Bill is meant to replace import restrictions on rice with tariffs, lifting the quantitative restrictions on rice imports. It also mandates NFA to buy its buffer stock from farmers.
Another feature of the proposed measure is the creation of the Rice Comprehensive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which earmarks PHP10 billion a year for six years to ensure that all duties collected from imported rice will plow back to local farmers.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, on the other hand, said the President will ensure that even with the Rice Tariffication Bill passed, the NFA will continue to provide the public, particularly the poor, with rice that is affordable and safe.
Nograles said once the law is passed, the NFA will be directed to buy palay from local farmers.
NFA, with help from the Department of Agriculture, will also be tasked to develop cost-efficient systems that will help reduce the production costs of locally-produced rice and stabilize prices. These measures will ensure that rice is accessibly priced. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency