House passes rice tariffication bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 14) — The House of Representatives has passed a bill lifting limits to rice imports and replacing it with a general tariff.

Two hundred lawmakers passed House Bill 7735, or the proposed Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act, on third and final reading Tuesday. Only seven voted against, while two abstained.

President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned the bill as a priority during his State of the Nation Address.

The high price of rice is one of the reasons for the recent uptick in prices, according to economic managers.

READ: Prices of goods hit new five-year high in July

Currently, private rice traders can ship 805,200 tons of rice annually without tariffs.

The bill aims to do away with this restriction, and instead, impose a general tariff on all rice imports, which will allow more entry of the staple to reduce market prices.

It also assigns the National Food Authority as the sole body that can facilitate direct imports of rice to attain food security.

The President, when necessary, may adjust tariff rates, regulate exports, impose temporary regulations or restrictions, and enter into trade negotiations when it comes to rice.

The Senate counterpart bill is pending at the committee level. Once the Senate version is passed, the two chambers will convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile their versions for ratification by Congress, and signing into law by the President.