House passes revised agricultural tariffication bill on 2nd reading
The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill seeking to replace quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imported rice with tariffs or taxes.
The lower chamber approved House Bill (HB) 7735 or the “Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act” via “viva voce voting,” where House members respond orally, on Tuesday.
The bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8178, also known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996.
Aside from allowing the imposition of tariffs in lieu of QRs on rice imports, the bill also sets the following bound rate for rice imported into the Philippines:
• Forty percent most-favored-nation (MFN) rate for importation within the 350,000 MT MAV from non-ASEAN WTO member countries;
• One hundred eighty percent MFN out quota tariff rate; and
• For imported rice from ASEAN member States, the import duty rate commitments of the Philippines in the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) shall apply.
The Agricultural Tariffication bill also empowers the President, if necessary, to adjust the applied rate, regulate rice exports, impose temporary regulations or restrictions on the rice imports volume, and enter into negotiations and re-negotiations on the bounds and maximum rates committed to or to be committed to by the Philippines.
The proposed measure also creates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which should consist of all duties collected from the importation of rice under the Act.
During the period of amendments, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman has proposed that the RCEF should “automatically be appropriated and released periodically to the Department of Agriculture (DA) without going through the General Appropriations Act” to “guarantee that it will directly benefit our farmers.”
Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr., sponsor of HB 7735, accepted the amendment.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmaker Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao earlier urged local farmers and poor consumers to reject the bill, saying it was “nothing but abandonment and further liberalization of the rice industry” and “will surely kill the already tormented local rice farmers and industry.”
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