September 2, 2019
The government will impose sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures against imported rice as imports have ballooned to 2.2 million metric tons (MT) for a quality found to be “bukbok-packed” (pests) to Filipino consumers’ health detriment.
Imported rice has been found in the past to be needing heavy pesticide-spraying due to the bukbok.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar said Saturday DA at a forum with the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (PCAFI) said government will impose SPS measures.
This is sanctioned within its agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to curb poor quality rice imports.
“We have asked BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) to implement protocol in import regulations regarding pesticide residue, presence of storage pests before the issuance of SPS (certificate) for imported rice,” said Dar at the PCAFI meeting held at the Quezon City Sports Club.
Dar said DA will correct several policies and impose new ones to ensure the benefit of both Filipino farmers and consumers.
“Those that say DA should rather be called Department of Importation, to some extent that’s true. And we will correct that eventually.” Dar said.
One of the policies being studied is the recommendation of PCAFI for the imposition of special safeguard measures, similarly sanctioned by the WTO, to ensure entry of dumped rice does not endanger the local industry.
“We’re also now studying the possibility of special and general safeguards measure. If there’s excessive rice import, we will limit these. We will stop rice from coming from its origin as it’s affected by bukbok,” said Dar.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said such special safeguard measure is a government right as part of protecting its own people.
Section 7 of Republic Act 11203 (Rice Tariffication Act) indicates government may “increase, reduce, revise” import duty rates (given certain conditions) consistent with “national interest” and the “objective of protection Filipino farmers and consumers.”
These are possibly other immediate measures of DA in protecting farmers and consumers from the adverse effect of RA 11203 implementation:
- Imposition of a Suggested Retail Price (SRP) “when figures don’t reflect true value of price” to ensure traders do not take advantage of the situation by “managing” or stopping inflow of supply to domestic market, thereby causing price to shoot up.
- DA will study the reason why rice price has not gone down considering huge imports since March upon ratification of RA 11203.
- Government will legislate increase in rice buffer stock from 30 days to 90 days. This will provide higher government budget for buying of palay of Filipino farmers’ produce, ensuring better income for farmers. This may also raise National Food Authority’s (NFA) ability to buy rice from Filipino farmers up to 5% of total rice production, versus the current 1% or less.
- Enjoining Local Government Units (LGUs) to engage in the business of buying palay, milling, storing, and distributing with the objective of immediately releasing rice stocks so that “turnover” of the value of rice may be realized, bringing multiple profits to Filipino farmers and other stakeholders. LGUs may also manage warehousing and maintenance of farm machineries as part of a “tripartite agreement” with DA and farmers.
- National Food Authority’s warehouses will be leased out to LGUs who have the advantage of strategically being located where farmers’ produce are, thereby becoming efficient in managing this business.
However, Fausto warned DA should ensure that this LGU business of rice buying and selling should be an “honest to goodness” one and should not be used by LGU leaders just to benefit those that patronize them.
“You have to be very careful because LGU leaders are political people. You can legalize vote buying through this system. We’re not generalizing all political leaders. But at the end of the day, some look for votes so that they or their relatives will win again next term,” said Fausto.
“It should be an honest to goodness way of buying of palay from all sectors, and selling to all. It should not only benefit the selected few (voters),” Fausto said.
This new LGU rice buying and selling, though, definitely has advantage in providing budget for maintenance of warehouses and rice machineries.
“There’s no issue if government maintains machineries. There should be training of people on these skills and in marketing goods. If the machines break down, or the warehouses need repair, there will be a budget that may be lent to the LGU,” said Fausto. (Melody M. Aguiba-Growth Publishing)