Press Release
August 27, 2019

Villar: Without RCEF, farmers will lose more under a tariffied system

Sen. Cynthia Villar reminded parties opposing the law enacted as government's response to the expiration of the quantitative restriction on rice importation to also consider the plight of local farmers who stand to lose more as cheap rice imports start flooding the market without any support program in place.

"Now that Philippine authorities can no longer limit the entry of imported rice, we impose tariffs and collect the amount to spend for programs that will help improve our farmers' productivity and profitability under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)," Villar said.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, noted that after becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, the Philippines secured a preferential trade deal in the form of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice importation to prevent the influx of cheap rice from abroad and protect local farmers from foreign competition.

Said trade deal was extended several times to allow more time to prepare the farmers but was no longer renewed when it expired in June 2017. There was also increasing pressure from WTO member countries for the Philippines to abandon its protectionist policies and fulfill its obligation to liberalize rice importation.

"We were under a QR system for 22 years. To my mind, we were given more than enough time to improve but we did not improve. Our farmers and fisherfolks continue to suffer in poverty while smugglers and cartels continue to enrich theirselves," Villar said.

Villar added that the need to really push for the improvement of the agriculture sector is shared by her colleagues as the Senate voted 14-0 to approve the bill. In February this year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the bill into law and it took effect in March.

Republic Act 11203 or the rice tariffication law removes the quota on rice imports and imposes tariffs. It allocates the collected revenue of P10 billion a year to RCEF which will be divided as follows:

  • P5 billion for the procurement by thePhilippine Center for Post harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) of farm equipment and machinery, which will be distributed to each of the 947 rice-producing towns in the country;

  • P 3 billion for the production and promotion of inbred seeds by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) which will increase the farmer's yield by up to 50 percent;

  • P1 billion will be given to Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements; and

  • P1 billion will be given to PhilMech,PhilRice, the Agricultural Training Institute and the Technical Skills Development Authority for skills training in rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, farm machinery servicing and maintenance and knowledge and technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.

"If we do not give the RCEF Law a chance to be fully implemented and deliver on its promise to improve the competitiveness of our agriculture sector, I don't think we can ever make it. In this age of liberalization, our farmers will continue to fear competition because they were not given the chance to improve their ways," Villar said.

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