A new rice regime
The bill essentially allows legitimate rice traders to import the commodity without permit from the National Food Authority, provided they secure a sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the appropriate tariff to the Bureau of Customs. The National Economic and Development Authority, this early, is upbeat about the bill set to be transmitted to Malacañang for President Duterte’s signature. Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia says the bill will make rice affordable and accessible to Filipinos. Rice supply will also no longer be the sole responsibility of the NFA. The measure amends the two-decade-old Republic Act No. 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, and replaces the quantitative restrictions on rice imports with tariff. The NFA will now focus on ensuring sufficient buffer stocks to address emergency situations. While there is a need to periodically replenish the buffer stocks, NFA can still sell cheap rice but to specific markets, like those in far-flung areas that some private traders may not find profitable to serve.