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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rice traders assure Congress of lower prices

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House Speaker Martin Romualdez was assured by leaders of the Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders Movement (PRISM) on Monday that rice prices would significantly drop to as low as P42 per kilo next month.

PRISM founders Rowena Sadicon and Orly Manuntag met with Speaker Romualdez and other leaders of the House of Representatives at the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City.

PRISM is a group composed of various stakeholders across the rice value chain from seed growers, farmers, millers to traders, importers and retailers.

Manuntag expressed his gratitude to the Speaker and other lawmakers for their fruitful discussions on stabilizing  rice prices in the market in line with President Marcos’ Executive Order (EO) 62, which reduces the tariff on imported rice from 35 percent to 15 percent.

Manuntag, who is also the spokesperson of the Grain Retailers Confederation of the Philippines, said the reduced tariff would be felt across the markets, especially by Filipino consumers.

Sadicon, who is also PRISM’s lead convenor, addressed the concerns of local farmers, assuring them that their interests would not be overlooked despite the tariff reduction.

Also present during the meeting were House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Zaldy Co, House Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Mark Enverga, Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo, and National Food Authority OIC-Administrator Larry Lacson.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte meanwhile expressed optimism that the Senate will pass the bill that amends the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) in the face of the rising cost of the staple.

During a farmers’ event in Quezon the other weekend, Romualdez had told reporters: It looks like the House and the Senate are coming to an agreement and it looks close.”

Romualdez said that reforming RTL was a “focal point” in his first official meeting with Senate President Francis Escudero at Malacañan Palace.

He said the proposed amendments aim to ensure food security and economic stability for farmers by providing affordable quality rice to Filipinos and increasing farmers’ incomes.

Villafuerte said that the likely congressional approval of the proposed amendatory law to RTL or Republic Act 11203 will further pull down market prices of this grain, as part of the government’s aim to slash the per-kilo price of rice to below P30 for the benefit of consumers.

“With rice accounting for a sizeable share of the food expenses of Filipinos, most especially of poor or low-income families, amending RA 11203 by restoring certain regulatory and trading powers of the NFA (National Food Authority) to intervene in the market and make the staple more affordable and accessible for our consumers is one way for lawmakers to help take the edge off sticky inflation,” the lawmaker said.

Villafuerte, a lead proponent of the House-passed amendatory measure (House Bill or HB 10381) to RA 11203, is more hopeful now that senators would pass their version of the proposed amendments to the RTL when the 19th Congress reopens for its third and final session on July 22.

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