MANILA, MalacaAang on Monday defended the decision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to scrap rice import quotas, a system that the President has said is the source of corruption.
The scrapping of quota to import on a government-to-government basis, that's within the power of the President, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Roque said the conversion of the quantitative restriction on rice into tariff is the one that needs amendment of the law.
This tariffication has already been approved at the House of Representatives. It's now up to Senate. That would completely remove quantitative restrictions. That's one covered by law, he said.
In a press conference upon his arrival from Singapore ASEAN Summit early Sunday morning, Duterte scrapped the import quotas, saying anybody who has the money can import as long as they pay the correct taxes.
Duterte, however, said rice importation should not be done during harvest season.
Roque also defended Duterte's order to the National Food Authority (NFA) to purchase more locally-produced rice under 'buy high, sell low' policy.
What the President has said, instead of the foreigners getting the profit, we better spend it in the Philippines the Filipino farmers are the one who will earn. That's the rationale, Roque explained.
He said the Philippines is spending PHP6 billion for the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.
That's six billion. If we'll give out money, we better give it to the Filipino farmers. Buy the rice at higher price, there's no difference, no corruption, Roque said.
The President has said the government should not mind incurring losses if the rice would be sold to the public at low prices since it's taxpayers' money.
To prevent shortage, Duterte has ordered the NFA to make sure its warehouses nationwide would be full of rice bags.
Source: Philippine News Agency