MANILA - (UPDATE) The government needs to raise tariffs on imported rice to 86 percent from 35 percent to help Filipino farmers compete and ensure the survival of the local rice industry, an advocacy group said on Thursday.
Following Agriculture Secretary William Dar's announcement that the government will continue to allow rice importation, Alyansa Agrikultura appealed to authorities to raise the tariff on imported grain.
Alyansa Agrikultura chairman Ernesto Ordoñez said that while the rules of the World Trade Organization prevent the Philippines from unilaterally stopping imports, the WTO also allows the country to use tariffs to protect local farmers from unfair competition.
"The rule states that anybody can import but you must follow the tariff. The problem is that the tariff is ridiculously and wrongly low," Ordoñez said in an interview on ANC's Market Edge.
Ordoñez, who served as Agriculture as well as Trade undersecretary during the term of former president Fidel Ramos, said the tariff needs to be raised to 86 percent to make the price of imported rice equal to local rice.
The duty can eventually be lowered to 35 percent once local farmers are ready to compete in terms of price with farmers from other countries.
An agriculture advocate earlier said that it would take up to 4 years to get local farmers competitive with farmers from other countries.
Ordoñez meanwhile agreed with the government's move to implement stricter sanitary guidelines for rice imports. He said this would help control the amount of rice being shipped to the country.