AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar is expected to announce a decision on the possible imposition of safeguard duties on imported rice by tomorrow, Friday.
“We are discussing it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Senate hearing for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) 2020 budget on Wednesday.
Under Section 7 of Republic Act No. 8800 or the Safeguard Measures Act, government agencies are authorized to make a preliminary determination that imports are harming domestic industry within 30 days from receipt of a petition or a motu proprio initiation of the preliminary safeguard investigation.
The Philippines informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) for such investigation on Sept. 12, with a surge in rice imports blamed for a plunge in the farmgate price for domestic palay, or unmilled rice, following the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.
The law liberalized rice imports in exchange for a tariff of 35% on Southeast Asian grain.
According to the WTO, a safeguard investigation will take in evidence from importers, exporters, and other parties.
A WTO member can only impose a safeguard action, like restricting imports temporarily, only if imports are proved to be the cause of the injury.
In September, Mr. Dar noted that rice imports from March to August hit 2.4 million metric tons (MMT), well above the estimated 1.5-MMT to 2-MMT import requirement to meet domestic demand. The country is 93% self-sufficient in rice, which means only 7% is needed to be filled in by imports.
According to DA’s price monitoring for Oct. 9, imported commercial rice is retailing for P34 to P55 per kilo. Domestically-sourced commercial rice sells for P35.26-P52.74. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang