Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol
MANILA, Philippines – The lowest price of rice in local markets today can be bought at P27 to P32 pesos per kilogram, the cheapest price that the National Food Authority (NFA) can offer.
But according to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, once the Rice Tariffication Bill is enacted into law, the NFA would have no choice but to buy rice from the local farmers instead of pushing for rice importation.
Piñol explains that the proposed legislature will remove NFA’s regulatory and importation functions and will only serve as keeper of the buffer stocks from domestic farmers for use in time of calamities and other emergencies.
This means that the low-priced NFA rice will no longer be available in the market.
‘One thing is certain. There will be no more P27 rice. Hindi rin sigurado kung magkakaroon pa ng continuous na pagbebenta ng NFA rice sa merkado because the role of the NFA now in the proposed act that will be signed by the President is that of a buffer stocking agency,” Piñol said.
The proposed act will also lift import restrictions on commercial rice and will only allow certain amount of tariff or duties.
Piñol noted that should the agency be allowed to supply rice in markets after the passage of the bill, they can only provide rice for P35 to P36 pesos per kilogram.
Piñol assures, however, that the current stock of NFA’s imported rice is still enough for the next three months.
The Agriculture Secretary added that the government has allocated P10-B peso annual budget intended for farmers’ subsidy to help them minimize production costs while they increase their yield.
The budget also covers free seed and use of agriculture equipment.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) assures to carry on with the implementation of suggested retail price (SRP) on rice under the Price Act to prevent price increase.
Piñol stressed, however, that the government might still incur income losses should it decide to pursue with the rice subsidy plan.
‘Kung P20.70 (per kilo) ang bili namin ng bigas (palay) hindi pwedeng ibenta namin ng P27. Kung ayaw nilang magpalugi. Pero the national government can still tell the NFA: “Ok. Magpalugi kayo. Bilhin ninyo ng P20.70 (per kilo) (at) ibenta ninyo ng P27 (pesos). I-subsidize namin ang remaining (cost).” That could still be possible,” the Secretary concluded.
Meanwhile, comsumer group ‘Laban Konsyumer’ president Atty. Vic Dimagiba believes that it is untimely to remove the NFA rice in local markets considering that 30% of the country’s population consumes the said low-priced staple apart from the possible rise in inflation.
He calls the proposed rice tariffication act is anti-poor therefore, the President should reconsider before signing it.
‘Di pa panahon . Lalong sisipa ang inflation sa pagkain . Yun 30 pct poor consumers na pumipila sa nfa rice na 27 at 32 a kilo naagrabyado na naman. We made that statement in a senate hearing. Anti poor yan desisyon. Dapat pigilan ng Pangulo,’ Dimagiba argued.
As of press time, the bill is just awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)