Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday the government will never repeal Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, because the measure will not only make the country achieve greater food security but also revolutionize the agriculture sector.
In a speech during the World Rice Conference held in Makati City, Dominguez said there would be no turning back to the era of low rice productivity.
“There is no inclination to repeal, revise, or suspend the Rice Tariffication Law. The law gives an opportunity to revolutionize the agriculture sector and help farmers become more competitive in the global economy,” Dominguez said.
“We are now reaping the benefits of the rice tariffication law,” he added.
He said the rice industry “stagnated” in the previous years, trapping millions of Filipinos in poverty.
“We are no longer vulnerable to price spikes in rice,” he said, citing the peak of inflation rate in 2018 that reached 6.7 percent, driven mainly by high oil and rice prices.
He said latest data showed that the law brought down the price of rice by about P9 per kilo. Inflation further eased to a 42-month low of 0.8 percent in October from 0.9 percent in the previous month, bringing the year-to-date average to 2.6 percent, below the midpoint of the target range of 2-4 percent for this year earlier set by the government.
Dominguez said the law also eased pressures on employers to raise the wages of their workers.
Dominguez said as of Oct. 31, 2019, the tariff revenues collected from rice reached P11.4 billion, already exceeding the P10-billion earmarked for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
RCEF is authorized to take in P10 billion annually until 2024 from import tariffs.
RCEF will support greater mechanization, distribution of high-yield inbred seed, credit, and extension support and education in the rice industry.
The government in September released P2.462 billion for the credit and seed distribution components of the RCEF. The Department of Budget and Management allotted to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) P2.038 billion to fund promotion, and the purchase and distribution of certified seed to farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.
Distribution started last month for dry-season planting, covering 57 provinces, and 747 cities and municipalities, with a total land area of more than one million hectares.
Each farmer will receive a maximum of 80 kilograms of certified rice seed, which include RC 222, RC 160, RC 216, and 16 other location-specific varieties, for two consecutive seasons.
Through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, the DBM also released P244 million to state-run Development Bank of the Philippines and P180 million to the Land Bank of the Philippines for lending to individual farmers and accredited cooperatives and associations.
The Rice Tariffication Law took effect in March 2019, replacing the quantitative restrictions that began in 1995.
National Economic and Development Authority undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said in the same conference every Filipino consumed around 110 kilograms of rice annually.
Edillon noted under the QR regime a marked failure to increase the production of rice. She said a marginal number of farmers were not mechanized. Exacerbating the situation was the lack of post-harvest facilities.