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Rice traders push for stronger measure vs rice cartels, smuggling

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

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Under the Rice Tariffication Law, the 24-year implementation of the quantitative restriction on rice imporation has been replaced by a 35% tariff on rice importation from within ASEAN private traders.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)

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Rice industry groups call on Duterte to veto rice tariffication bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Rice stakeholders protesting against the rice tarrification bill | UNTV News & Rescue

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)

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Diokno: Duterte won’t veto Rice Tariffication Bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019

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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REPASO 2018: Rice, Inflation and Duterte’s TRAIN Law

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2018

 

The Philippines is among countries that highly depends on rice as its staple.

This year, issues surrounding the country’s rice supply and the National Food Authority (NFA) made headlines especially when supply of low-priced rice became scarce in local markets.

The NFA blamed the NFA Council for the shortage of NFA rice in markets citing its disapproval of rice importation despite the NFA’s recommendation in 2017.

While the NFA rice ran scarce, the price of commercial rice skyrocketed.

In Zamboanga, rice prices hit a staggering P70 per kilogram.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) blamed rice traders for manipulating market prices taking advantage of the scarcity of NFA rice.

But Secretary Manny Piñol said rice supply was not scarce.

It’s just that traders were controlling the supply.

In fact, the DA discovered thousands of sacks of rice in a warehouse in Bulacan supposedly delivered to local markets.

The issue prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to return the control over the NFA to the DA and appointed Sec. Piñol as chairman of the NFA Council.

Duterte ordered Piñol to fill the markets with commercial rice.

“The best way to address this problem is, I will fill my inventory. I was mad because it was either half full or half empty. Sabi ko guys, I want the rice up there, touching the ceiling of warehouse now,” President Duterte said.

In August, the delivery of five million sacks of rice imported by the NFA arrived in the country.

But the prolonged days of rain delayed the unloading of the rice shipment.

Reports surfaced that the rice shipment were infested by rice weevils and could be harmful for consumption.

But Sec. Piñol himself proved that weevil infestation was not enough reason to say that the shipments were no longer edible.

This sets this year “Bukbok challenge” among government officials and the Secretary himself ate weevil-infected cooked rice to challenge lawmakers criticizing the DA.

 

Amid speculations of health risks posed by weevils and alleged formalin contamination in galunggong, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol ate cooked weevil-infested rice together with fried galunggong  on live television to allay fears.

“Kanin na may bukbok, pwedeng kainin. I’m walking the talk, kapag sinabi kong kaya kong kainin yung bigas na may bukbok, hugasan lang natin, huwag nating kainin ‘yung bukbok,” Se. Piñol said showing on live television that eating weevil-infested rice is safe.

In November, the DA imposed a suggested retail price on commercial rice and banned the use of fancy brand names.

But the DA expressed concern on the impending approval of the proposed Rice Tarrification Act.

Piñol said the proposed law might remove the supply of NFA rice in markets because the measure will strip the NFA of its importation function and importation of rice will be open even to the private sector.

The NFA’s function will also be limited to buffer stocking and they will only be allowed to buy rice from the local farmers’ yield.

“But one thing is certain, there will be no more P27 rice,” Piñol argued.

But Senate Food and Agriculture Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar countered Piñol’s statement saying the supply of low-priced rice will remain in local markets.

The price of fish and vegetables also hit significant increase this year due to a series of weather disturbances.

A notable increase was in the price of chili which reached to P1,000 per kilogram.

The DA argued, however,  that the country has enough supply of vegetables but the problem is how they will be delivered to the municipality in need.

In line with this, the DA launched the ‘Tienda Malasakit Stores’ which sell top quality agricultural products at the price almost 50% off.

Also, the DA imposed suggested retail price on several agriculture products to avoid profiteering.

Due to a series of price hikes, the country’s inflation rate shoots up.

Based on the report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the country’s inflation reached the 3.5 mark in 2017 but soared even higher in October 2018 at 6.7.

This development burdened consumers even more.

“Kahit sa gulay dati makabili ka lang ng P10 marami na. sa ngayon konti nalang ang mabili mo kahit sa P10 halos wala ka nang makain sa sampung piso,” said Quezon City resident Sicel Amadeo.

“Minsan di nalang kami bumibili. Tsaga nalang kami sa bagoong… eto yan lang ho. Totoo po lahat. Tulad nyan walang trabaho minsan. Hindi ko na alam kung saan ako lalapit,” said Laura Bagan also a resident of Quezon City.

Among the reasons for the rising inflation, analysts said, was the increase in oil price in the world market.

This prompted a fare hike of minimum fare in jeepney to P10.00 in Metro Manila, Region 3 and other provinces.

But after a week, the minimum fare was reduced to P9.00 as a result of a slight oil price rollback.

Price cuts on oil products were recorded eight times in eight weeks from October to November but drivers and operators argued that these couldn’t surpass the total increase in oil prices this year.

Also among the main reasons for the rising inflation, consumers alleged, was the implementation of the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law which the President signed on December 19, 2017.

The measure aims at funding the government’s ‘Build, build, build’ infrastructure projects through imposition of additional taxes.

During the last quarter of the year, the government’s economic managers recommended the implementation of the second tranche of the TRAIN law after the price of oil soared to P42/L.

But the recommendation was later withdrawn after a series of price rollback in oil which dipped by P12/L in total.

The second tranche of excise tax on oil will add P2.00 more per liter.

This prompted the consumer group ‘Laban Konsyumer’ to ask the Supreme Court to suspend the implementation to TRAIN 2 as it will further burden the consumers.

“Pinapabalewala namin ang batas na iyan, sa tingin po namin ito po’y anti-poor. Anti-poor kasi tinaasan ang excise taxes sa fuel at iba pang produkto tulad ng coal sa mga consumer o mga mahihirap na wala namang kakayahan magbayad ng mataas na buwis,” argued Laban Konsyumer Atty. Vic Dimagiba. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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