MANILA - The Senate approved the Rice Tariffication Bill on third and final reading on Wednesday.
Voting 14-0, the Senate passed the bill seeking to replace the present quotas on rice importation with rice tariffs instead.
President Rodrigo Duterte has certified the bill as urgent as it is expected to result in lower rice prices and help tame inflation.
To assist the local rice industry, which is expected to be hit by the removal of rice import restrictions, the bill provides for a rice competitiveness enhancement fund or “rice fund”.
Under the bill, P10 billion will be appropriated to the rice fund annually in the next six years, for rice producing areas, rice seed development programs, and credit assistance.
Preferential attention will be given to rice farmers, cooperatives and associations affected by the tariffication.
If the annual tariff revenues exceed P10 billion a year, the bill states that excess revenues will be earmarked by Congress for financial assistance to rice farmers.
A portion of it may also be used for titling of agricultural rice lands, and programs on crop insurance and crop diversification.
The measure will be reviewed after three years to determine the effectiveness of programs and interventions for farmers.
The bill’s counterpart was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives last August.