Press Release
September 25, 2023

HONTIVEROS: USE RICE TARIFF COLLECTIONS AS CASH AID TO FILIPINO FAMILIES

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday voiced concerns against the proposed reduction in rice import tariffs. Contrary to the Department of Finance's stance that lower tariffs would guarantee affordable rice for Filipino households, she argued that such a move could prove detrimental to the agricultural sector and, ultimately, to consumers.

"Don't lower the tariffs. Instead, let's work towards a solution that benefits both consumers and our hard working farmers. Local farmers depend on fair prices to sustain their livelihoods, especially in the face of recent challenges such as severe flooding and the looming El Nino," Hontiveros said.

Drawing from the 2008-2009 rice price crisis, in which high rice prices led to increased production in many countries, Senator Hontiveros urged bolstering support for local farmers in terms of technology, seeds, and fertilizers, like many of the countries in 2008 did.

"If rice tariffs remain at 35 percent, higher prices will encourage more local production. While a fever is usually not a positive sign, it is believed to stimulate the body's cells to work faster, including those that combat illness," she stated.

To aid consumers, Hontiveros proposed to leverage the rice import tariffs that the DOF is willing to forego as a one-time cash transfer to benefit low-income families and the lower-middle class, while the prices are still high. This approach ensures that rice remains affordable for the less fortunate 50 percent of Filipinos.

"We have an opportunity here to collect and employ these rice import tariffs to provide much-needed cash assistance to millions of Filipino households. With 12 billion pesos, for example, we could extend assistance to an additional six million families on top of the 4 million 4Ps families already receiving rice allowances," Senator Hontiveros said.

She stressed that some of the revenues from rice import tariffs, plus other windfall revenues such as petroleum excise taxes, could serve as a valuable resource to reinforce financial assistance programs.

"Each family could receive 2,000 pesos, equivalent to a 15-peso reduction for every two kilograms of rice they purchase daily. This assistance could be sustained for the next four months, offering considerable relief to struggling families," she added.

Senator Hontiveros further pointed out that raising the ability of consumers to pay for costly rice would drive importers to increase supply to meet the demand that local production could not, thus mitigating any concerns about supply shortages.

This strategy also eliminates the need to allocate the National Food Authority (NFA) budget for rice import deals with countries like Vietnam, allowing these funds to be used solely for local procurement to build up the required buffer.

"Utilizing rice import tariffs offers a win-win solution for consumers and the agricultural sector. Matutulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na bumili pa rin ng bigas kahit mahal ito, habang sinisigurado nating sakto lang ang imports, hindi malulugi at hindi titigil ang ating mga magsasaka sa pagtatanim. This will not only benefit Filipino families but also promote a sustainable, balanced rice market in the long term," she concluded.


HONTIVEROS: TARIPA SA BIGAS, GAMITIN BILANG AYUDA

Nagpahayag ng pangamba si Senador Risa Hontiveros laban sa panukalang pagbabawas sa mga taripa sa pag-import ng bigas. Taliwas sa paninindigan ng Department of Finance na magiging abot-kaya ang bigas kung ibababa ang taripa, sinabi ni Hontiveros na ang hakbang na ito ay maaaring makapinsala sa sektor ng agrikultura at sa mga mamimili.

"Don't lower the tariffs. Instead, let's work towards a solution that benefits both consumers and our hard working farmers. Local farmers depend on fair prices to sustain their livelihoods, especially in the face of recent challenges such as severe flooding and the looming El Nino," ani Hontiveros.

Hinimok ni Hontiveros na mas pag-ibayuhin ang suporta sa ating mga magsasaka pagdating sa teknolohiya, binhi, at abono gaya ng ginawa ng maraming mga bansa noong 2008-2009 rice crisis kung saan humantong ang mataas na presyo ng bigas sa pagtaas ng produksyon sa ibang mga bansa.

"If rice tariffs remain at 35 percent, higher prices will encourage more local production. While a fever is usually not a positive sign, it is believed to stimulate the body's cells to work faster, including those that combat illness," ani Hontiveros.

Upang tulungan naman ang mga mamimili, iminungkahi ni Hontiveros na gamitin ang mga taripa sa pag-import ng bigas bilang one-time cash transfer habang mataas pa rin ang presyo ng bigas upang makinabang ang mga pamilyang mababa ang kita at ang lower-middle class. Sa ganitong paraan, mananatiling abot-kaya ang bigas para sa mga mahihirap na mga Pilipino.

"We have an opportunity here to collect and employ these rice import tariffs to provide much-needed cash assistance to millions of Filipino households. With 12 billion pesos, for example, we could extend assistance to an additional six million families on top of the 4 million 4Ps families already receiving rice allowances," ayon kay Hontiveros.

Binigyang-diin niya na ang kita mula sa mga taripa sa pag-import ng bigas, kasama ang iba pang mga windfall revenues tulad ng excise taxes ng petrolyo, ay maaaring mapagkukunan ng pondo para sa ayuda.

"Each family could receive 2,000 pesos, equivalent to a 15-peso reduction for every two kilograms of rice they purchase daily. This assistance could be sustained for the next four months, offering considerable relief to struggling families," dagdag niya.

Ipinunto pa ni Hontiveros na ang pag-angat ng kakayahan ng mga mamimili na magbayad ng mahal na bigas ay magtutulak sa mga importer na dagdagan ang suplay upang matugunan ang pangangailangan na hindi kayang gawin ng lokal na produksyon, kaya't maibsan ang anumang alalahanin tungkol sa kakulangan ng suplay.

Hindi na rin kailangang maglaan ng National Food Authority (NFA) ng badyet para sa pag-import ng bigas sa mga bansang tulad ng Vietnam, at gamitin na lang ang mga pondong ito para sa local procurement upang mapunan ang kinakailangang buffer.

"Utilizing rice import tariffs offers a win-win solution for consumers and the agricultural sector. Matutulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na bumili pa rin ng bigas kahit mahal ito, habang sinisigurado nating sakto lang ang imports, hindi malulugi at hindi titigil ang ating mga magsasaka sa pagtatanim. This will not only benefit Filipino families but also promote a sustainable, balanced rice market in the long term," pagtatapos ni Hontiveros.

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