Proposed tariff cuts on rice imports ill-timed — farmers’ group

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) criticized the government’s plan to slash tariffs on rice imports, saying lowering levies would be ill-timed since harvest season is about to begin and prices would naturally go down.

“Encouraging additional imports through tariff reduction will further depress palay prices and discourage farmers from expanding their future production, thereby making the country even more dependent on imports,” FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor said in a statement on Wednesday.

Montemayor also deplored what he called economic managers’ “apparent game plan” to disregard and bypass Congress, which will go on recess on Sept. 30.

On Friday, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced in a news conference his department’s proposal to temporarily slash tariffs on rice imports to zero in an effort to boost supply at affordable prices.

In an interview with Reuters in Dubai on Sept. 12, Diokno was quoted as saying that in a week or two, when Congress will be out of session, will be the perfect time to cut tariffs. He added that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can slash tariffs only when Congress is not in session.

Section 1608 of Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, gives the president the power to “increase, reduce, or remove existing rates of import duty including any necessary change in classification” but “only when Congress is not in session.”

This can be done through an executive order issued by the president.

Montemayor noted that shortly after the proposal by Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan was announced, the Tariff Commission scheduled a formal inquiry on Sept. 15 on the petition of advocacy group Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) to slash levies on rice imports from 35% to 10%.

The FEF has proposed tariff cuts instead of imposing a price ceiling on the staple, saying the cap would only aggravate the tight rice supply situation and harm consumers and farmers.

“The TC hearings have lost their value as a credible consultation mechanism. No matter what we say in these hearings, the position of DOF and NEDA - which supervises the TC – will prevail,” Montemayor alleged.

CNN Philippines is requesting comment from the government.