May 27, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Romualdez cites decisive action to slash rice prices amid consumer struggles

THE House of Representatives will begin plenary debates this week on the bill amending the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), a critical measure aimed at substantially reducing rice prices to ease the financial burden on consumers.

Recognizing the urgency, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the legislative chamber would double the effort to hasten the plenary debates and secure the bill’s approval on second reading by Wednesday.

“We recognize the urgency of addressing the challenges faced by consumers due to high rice prices. Through these plenary debates, we are taking decisive action to bring about meaningful change and ease the financial strain on Filipino households,” Romualdez said.

Plenary debates will commence once the RTL amendment bill is sponsored by the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, chaired by Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga.

Last Tuesday, the Enverga panel approved the substitute measure for  House Bill (HB) Nos. 212, 405, 1562, 9030, 9547, and in consideration of House Resolution (HR) No. 1614.

The substitute bill aims to bolster the competitiveness and resilience of the rice industry while ensuring affordable access to the essential staple for all Filipinos.

The committee approval came a day after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. expressed his intention to certify the bill amending RTL as urgent.

Romualdez said the intention was to have the RTL amended by July, aiming to lower rice prices to less than P30 and thereby making rice more affordable for every Filipino family.

Currently, rice retails between P40-45 and sometimes exceeds P50.

“By amending the RTL, we aim to bring about tangible reductions in rice prices, ensuring that Filipino consumers are not unduly burdened by high food costs,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“Lowering rice prices to less than P30 is a crucial step towards ensuring food security and economic stability for all,” he added.

The substitute bill seeks to restore the National Food Authority’s (NFA) role in managing the country’s rice supply chain under the proposed amended RTL. 

Key to the measure is maintaining a rice buffer stock, empowering the NFA to buy local milled rice as needed. 

In cases of insufficient domestic supply, the NFA can procure rice from accredited importers at a set percentage of CIF (cost, insurance and freight) landed price. 

As a last resort, the NFA can directly import rice with explicit authorization from the President, solely to stabilize the national rice supply. 

The bill also grants temporary powers to the NFA in cases of price spikes or acute shortages. 

It likewise strengthens the Bureau of Plant Industry to ensure warehouse compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards. 

The bill suggests adjustments to fund allocations and the establishment of a Rice Industry Development Program Management Office. 

Enacted in 2019, the RTL replaced quantitative restrictions on imported rice with tariffs, establishing the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund or RCEF.

However, it removed the NFA’s market intervention powers, affecting public access to affordable rice varieties.