May 24, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

House OKs Rice Tariffication Law amendments to bring down rice prices

THE House Committee on Agriculture chaired by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga on Tuesday approved the proposed amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that aim to bring down rice prices.

The committee’s approval came after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. announced that he was prepared to certify the amendment proposals as urgent.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez thanked the committee for approving the measure as quickly as possible, saying, “It is important that we provide our people, especially the poor, access to rice that is much cheaper than market prices.”

He said such access would be provided by returning the mandate of the National Food Authority (NFA) not only to buy palay from farmers but to sell rice directly to consumers.

He earlier estimated that rice prices could fall from P10 to P15 per kilo.

On Monday, Speaker Romualdez met with Department of Agriculture officials who agreed to the plan to sell cheaper rice through Kadiwa stores.

The House leader has also vowed to have the RTL changes approved on third and final reading by his chamber before Congress goes on its annual sine die adjournment this month.

Enverga told reporters that the approved measure “will ensure that there will be the presence of NFA to stabilize the price of rice, para ito nga po, will be affordable to our countrymen…that they should also be there para panlaban din po ng gobyerno sa mga mapagsamantalang mga traders sa merkado.”

He said NFA should always be ready to intervene in the market to bring down prices especially in emergency cases.

He said it is important that local price coordinating councils and the National Price Coordinating Council monitor prices and coordinate NFA’s market intervention.

He said the approved bill would still have to go through the committee on ways and means “the soonest possible.” 

“Of course, we know how important this is to Speaker Martin Romualdez. Gusto po niyang ma-realize na na mababa po natin ‘yung presyo. Ganyundin, as announced by the President, he’s very much willing to certify this measure. So, ito po ay ang paraan po natin para meron po tayong affordable rice para po sa ating mga kababayan,” Enverga stressed.

For his part, Deputy Majority Leader for Communications and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Erwin Tulfo said the House efforts to bring down rice prices could get derailed in the Senate.

“We’re facing another uphill battle here. Nakalusot nga ho dito. Ang problem ho namin ngayon, is the Senate. Iba ho ‘yung version nila e. Yung version ho ng Senate, walang laman, eh. Eh, wala. Ang binabanggit doon na NFA. So, pumasa man ho dito, pagdating mo sa kanila, wala ring mangyayari,” he said.

He asked the Senate to just adopt the House version of the RTL amendments.

“Pakiusap po namin sa Senate. Baka pwede naman ho, sumabay na lang ho kayo sa version namin. Isantabi ho muna natin ‘yung mga business interest, personal interest natin. Unahin po muna natin ‘yung interest ng mga tao, ng nakakarami ho sa atin. Otherwise, wala ho mangyayari. Kaya tayo napupulaan ng taumbayan. Puro tayo porma. Puro tayo kwento. Why don’t we just do our work? Let us unite. Para sa isang mission, ang mission natin, everybody can buy rice,” he said.

As for corruption issues, Tulfo said these could be addressed by passing the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.

“Besides, eh, trabaho na ho ng mga…agencies natin, manghuli ng mga corrupt, ng mga officials, ng mga employees, di po ba? Hindi na ho problema ng taumbayan ‘yan. That is not the problem of the people. The problem of the people right now, cheap rice. And we have to answer this immediately,” he said.

He pointed out that time is clearly running out on the approval of the proposed RTL changes, particularly by the Senate, with Congress going on its sine die adjournment in less than three weeks.

“I’m asking yung mga counterparts namin sa Senate, baka pwede ho, ilapit-lapit ho ninyo yung version nyo sa amin. Kahit yung NFA na lamang ho, huwag na ho natin pag-usapan ‘yung iba. Kasi sa tingin ho namin, wala hong laman ho yung sa Senate eh. Eh, mas maganda ho siguro, lagyan na rin ho ninyo dyan sa Senate na pwede ho magbenta ang NFA, mag-intervene kagaya ng mga panahon ho ngayon na napakamahal ng bigas,” he added.

“Marami ho tayong mga kababayan nagugutom. We have to do something about this. Yes. Sayang po pagiging representatives natin. Sayang po pagiging senator natin. If we can’t do anything. We have the power in our hands, ladies and gentlemen,” he stressed.