Rice traders push for stronger measure vs rice cartels, smuggling
Freema Gloria • February 26, 2019 • 1839
METRO MANILA, Philippines – Alyansa ng Industriyang Bigas, a group of rice traders are appealing for a strong measure against rice cartels and smuggling to be included in the implementing Rules and Regulation that is being crafted for the Rice Tariffication Law.
Its founding chairman, Robert Hernandez, said that the illegal activities usually cause rice prices to increase in the market.
“Itong mga smuggler, itapon lang nila ang P200, may kita sila P150 sa P1,000, masaya na sila. Malaking kita na yan sa rice businesses. The government will do something. Included sa IRR measures how to eradicate those smugglers,” he said.
Hernandez added that, aside from the measures that the government will impose to help the local farmers, it must also monitor the cost that the retailers group will charge on top of the suggested retail price.
Under the Rice Tariffication Law, the 24-year implementation of the quantitative restriction on rice imporation has been replaced by a 35% tariff on rice importation from within ASEAN private traders.
This new system may result in the inflow of cheaper rice in the market, and the NFA rice will eventually be eliminated.
It will be recalled that one of the most significant issues raised before was the monopoly on rice supply wherein the name of Davidson Bangayan, was floated as a suspected big time rice smuggler.
The Department of Justice released a resolution in November 2018, and filed charges against Bangayan.
However, with the new tariffication law on rice, 10 billion pesos will be annually allocated to the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund.
This will directly help the Flipino farmers in improving the volume of their harvest.
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Rice Tariffication Law or the Republic Act. No. 11203 on February 04, 2019 and it is expected to be imposed on March 05, 2019. – Freema Salonga-Gloria (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)
MANILA, Philippines – Retailers and government agencies may now purchase rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) at a reduced price of P25/kg, instead of P27/kg.
Such measure aims at expediting the disposal of NFA’s current buffer stocks, said DA Secretary William Dar.
“Para mas magaan, mas mabilis ang paglabas ng mgaimported rice stocks [of the] National Food Authority,” he said.
Agencies which can avail the reduced price of NFA rice include the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Bureau of Corrections (Bucor), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and local government units (LGUs).
Meanwhile, retailers may also get an even lower price per kilogram of NFA rice at P23 instead of P25/kg.
However, this will still be sold to end-consumers at P27/kg thus retailers will be able to gain P200 higher profit for each sack of rice.
Rice retailer Teresita Terado said the disposal of NFA rice still depends on consumer preference.
“Ang taong-bayan naman ang bibili nyan, hindi naman kami. Kahit i-push namin siya kung hindi naman siya mabenta,(It’s the consumers who buy [the NFA rice] not us. We can’t push them to buy it if they don’t want to),” Terado, a rice retailer at Commonwealth Market, said.
But Teresita said there is not much difference between regular commercial rice and NFA rice when it comes to quality.
Consumer group Laban Konsyumer criticized the government’s economic managers for rejecting their proposal, which according to the group’s president Atty. Vic Dimagiba, led to the current state of NFA rice in the country.
“Our proposal was ignored because the economic managers believe then that the imported rice will bring down prices to 32 pesos a kilogram. That didn’t happen,” Dimagiba said.
“What’s happening now is a sort of deja vu. Cramming and bringing back NFA to the market actively,” he added.
Based on the NFA’s October 17 data, there are still 2.5 million sacks of imported rice for disposal in the agency’s warehouses.
Such imported rice shipment was last contracted in December 2018 and its delivery was completed in February 2019. — MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
MANILA, Philippines – Several rice industry groups gathered in Mendiola on Thursday (February 14) to protest against the Rice Tariffication Bill which is only a signature away from becoming a law.
The groups call on the President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the measure, citing the possibility of a phase out of low-priced rice in the market currently distributed by the National Food Authority (NFA).
They fear the removal of NFA’s marketing support to local farmers because it will open an opportunity for traders to take advantage of the situation.
The groups also oppose the removal of NFA’s function to regulate and control the importation of rice because it will lead to rampant smuggling and allow businessmen to manipulate the local rice industry.
They said the government should have a strong regulation and control of rice importation similar to how it regulates the entry of imported garlic, onions and other goods.
“Anumang buwan (ay) tuloy-tuloy ang pagiimport ng bigas. Ito ay masama sa ating ekonomiya lalong lalo na sa farmers,” argued Orly Manuntag, national PRO of the Confederation of Grains Retailers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (GRECON).
With such a bill, the group said, NFA will no longer have its function to inspect private warehouses and confiscate hoarded supply because there will be no proper inventory of stocks.
Once the bill is enacted into law, they argued, it will cost the jobs of some 4,000 employees of the NFA.
The decision to ratify the rice tariffication bill now depends on whether President Duterte will sign or veto the measure which is due to lapse on February 15. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)
MANILA, Philippines — The Rice Tariffication Bill remains pending in the Office of the President after it was ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives (HOR) earlier last year.
If President Rodrigo Duterte will not veto the proposal, it will lapse into law by Friday (February 15).
The bill aims to replace rice import limits with tariff system to liberalize the process by removing non-tariff barriers.
Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno is confident that President Duterte will not veto the bill.
He also sent a letter to the Office of the President strongly urging the signing of the measure.
“We just sent a memo to the president strongly urging the signing of the Rice Tariffication Bill. I understand there are some strong lobby for veto, but let’s wait. It could either lapse into law or the president will approve it; but certainly a veto is not possible I think,” Diokno said.
Once enacted into law, rice traders no longer have to secure import license from the National Food Authority (NFA) as the agency will lose its regulatory function in rice importation.
The Department of Finance (DOF) will also have to resolve the debt of the National Food Authority (NFA) amounting to P200 billion, according to Diokno.
The budget official also added that the economic managers are looking for ways to improve the agriculture sector.
In 2018, the said sector only contributed zero point one percent in the Philippines’ economic growth.
“We have to put pressure on this sector to improve themselves, and increase productivity because right now, they are not competitive. Our production cost is much higher than the whole price of rice for example,” the Budget Secretary noted.
During the last cabinet meeting of President Duterte, the agenda included discussions on alleviating the lives of farmers and fisherfolks, providing them better access to credit and loan facilities and improving agricultural productivity. – Rosalie Coz
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