Solon files bill allowing president to declare ‘state of national rice emergency’

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — A lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to grant the president the power to declare a "state of national rice emergency," and direct government agencies to respond to the crisis, including by providing subsidies.

“The Philippine Rice Emergency Response Act serves as an additional measure the government may utilize to address extreme cases of the dwindling supply and soaring prices of rice,” Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said in the explanatory note of House Bill 9030.

She said the bill is a “strategic set of solutions— a comprehensive tool kit —that seeks to shield consumers and our local farmers, as well as traders, during tight conditions in the rice market.”

Under the bill, the president will have the authority to declare a national emergency due to an extreme shortage in the supply of rice, or in case there is a sustained or extraordinary increase in the price of the staple grain.

According to the proposed measure, the national rice emergency will take effect for a maximum of six months, and will automatically be lifted after that period without any action needed on the part of the president or Congress.

Quimbo said during the emergency, the government would provide rice subsidies to qualified rice farmers, cooperatives, associations, and other agricultural workers; poorest and affected households; and qualified traders and retailers.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to amend provisions of the Rice Tariffication Law, particularly:

- Allowing the use of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund during a national rice emergency for “programs that will respond to the economic crisis, subject to the approval of the Department of Agriculture, including the provision of cash assistance to farmers and other affected sectors”

- Authorizing the National Food Authority (NFA) to import rice to maintain a sufficient buffer stock, subject to the approval of the president. The funding will be sourced from the unutilized funds from the current and previous two fiscal years of the National Rice Program

- Empowering the president to propose to Congress to subject all rice imports during a national rice emergency to reduced or zero tariffs, provided that rice tariff collection targets have been sufficiently met in the same fiscal year.

The measure also imposes a penalty of imprisonment of 10 to 30 years and fine of ₱1 million to ₱100 million for those who will commit hoarding and acts of illegal price manipulation.

Government officials found guilty of price manipulation will be given the maximum penalties, Quimbo said.

On Tuesday, the Marcos administration started implementing a price cap for rice after a surge in retail prices.

Under Executive Order 39, regular milled rice may be sold at ₱41 per kilogram while well-milled rice at ₱45 per kilo. The order took effect on Tuesday.