Solon reminds Duterte to invoke measures protecting farmers as palay price falls

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2019 06:25 PM

Rice stalks wait to be harvested in Guimba Nueva Ecija, on September 02, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – House Committee on Ways and Means chairman and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to impose laws meant to protect local farmers from the influx of imported rice. 

Farmgate prices of palay have reportedly dropped to as low as P7 in Nueva Ecija due to increased local harvest and the huge volume of imports following the implementation of the rice tariffication law, Salceda said in an aide-memoire dated Sept. 3.

In his letter addressed to Duterte, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Salceda reminded officials that there are available measures that could be used to protect farmers from the plummeting prices of palay.

Salceda said the government could invoke Republic Act 8800 or the Safeguards Law to impose 30 percent to 80 percent tariff on imported rice outside the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons amid the apparent "surge of rice imports and injury to domestic industry."

Cash transfers to small farmers with 1 hectare of land and below, and concessional loans to big rice farmers with 5 hectares of land and below can also be provided, he said. 

But the government does not have funds to shell out conditional cash transfers to 1.1 million farmers with rice fields that are 1 hectare and below, Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Tuesday said, adding that they could avail of zero-interest loans instead.

The "last resort," Salceda said was to ask Congress for Special powers to impose quantitative restrictions on imported rice.

“QRs (quantitative restrictions) were removed with the passage of the new rice tariffication law but maybe imposed with special powers,” Salceda said. 

Duterte in February approved a measure that replaced quotas on rice imports with tax. The rice tarrification law was meant to stabilize rice supply, after food prices contributed to inflation that reached near 10-year highs last year.