By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT has finally issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Rice Tariffication Act, which President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law in February.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) distributed a copy of the IRR to reporters on Friday, which adopts the draft that was previously approved by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council. It will take effect 15 days from publication.
In line with the goal of the new policy to liberalize the importation of rice while taking away the role of the NFA in importing, the IRR outlines the process of removal of regulatory powers from the NFA and the transition of its function to maintenance and management of buffer stocks.
The IRR likewise specified the powers of the President in case of a sudden rise or drop in domestic prices of rice.
Under Article VI Sec. 7a, the President is allowed to “increase, reduce, revise or adjust existing rates of import duty up to the bound rate committed by the Philippines under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Agriculture and under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement…provided the power…shall only be exercised when Congress is not in session….”
It also gives the President the power to allow importation at a lower applied tariff rate “in the event of any imminent or forecasted shortage.”
The NEDA said the NFA Council must still commission a study to determine the optimal buffer stock for emergency and relief purposes. Until its scheduled completion, which must be no later than Dec. 31, the buffer stock will remain at the current level ranging from 15 to 30 days based on a 32,593-metric ton national rice consumption in a day.
The IRR also allows for the creation of an Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which are all duties collected from the importation of all non-rice agricultural products; and Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, or Rice Fund, which cover the P10-billion annual rice budget for the next six years.
The Rice Fund, it said, should be allocated to rice farm machineries and equipment (50%); rice seed development, propagation and promotion (30%); expanded rice credit assistance (10%) and rice extension services (10%).
Should there be an excess in the tariff revenues, the IRR states that a portion of it should be issued as financial assistance to rice farmers; budget for tilting of agriculture rice lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and similar programs; crop insurance for qualified rice farmer-beneficiaries; and budget for productivity-enhancement programs for rice farmers that wish to diversify their crops.
“We celebrate this milestone for the agriculture sector. All concerned agencies, including NEDA, are duty bound to implement this historic law. In moving forward, we all have the long-term goal of modernizing the rice industry and improving the lives of all Filipinos, especially farmers, in our minds,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia was quoted as saying in the NEDA statement.
The IRR was formed by the NEDA together with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Budget and Management.