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NEDA’s Balisacan says call to cut rice tariffs ‘not made lightly’

11 June 2024

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Monday defended the planned reduction in tariff rates for rice, saying the decision was “not made lightly” and that the government will continue to support farmers moving forward.

Balisacan said the government is aware of concerns raised by farmers, and understands apprehensions and emotions triggered by the decision to cut rice tariffs to 15% for both in-quote and out-quota rates until 2028.

“We understand the concerns of our farmers, and we are committed to supporting them through this transition. We are investing in infrastructure, promoting the adoption of modern technologies, improving market and financial access for local producers, and building resilience to climate change,” he said in an emailed statement.

“The goal of the NEDA Board in reducing the tariff rate of rice is to ensure that Filipinos have access to nutritious and affordable food, particularly rice, while managing inflation and sustaining our economic growth momentum,” he added.

The NEDA Board, chaired by the President and vice-chaired by Balisacan as NEDA Secretary, said the reduction of the rice tariffs was in line with the target to bring down rice prices to P29 per kilogram for the poor.

“We are also mindful of the need to manage inflation and ensure the affordability of essential staples for all Filipinos. High food prices disproportionately affect the poor and contribute to hunger, malnutrition, and stunting, hindering the attainment of our development goals,” Balisacan said.

Latest government data showed that inflation accelerated to 3.9% in May, the fastest reading in six months since November 2023’s 4.1%. Food inflation came in at 6.1%, while rice inflation clocked in at 23%.

Price monitoring of the Department of Agriculture (DA) shows that rice prices in Metro Manila ranged from P45.00 to P65.00 per kilogram as of last Thursday, June 6, 2024.

Following the NEDA Board decision, farmers groups have called for Balisacan’s resignation, saying the tariff rate cut would not bring down prices of rice to P29 per kilogram.

The groups are also planning to file a temporary restraining order against the measure should it be signed into law, as they said they were not consulted and that the rate cut would only impact the farmers who are already drowning in debt.

Balisacan did not have a direct response to the calls for his resignation, but said that the Tariff Commission received position papers and comments from 41 private sector parties, a consumer group, 15 Philippine government agencies, and a member of the House of Representatives in the most recent comprehensive tariff review.

“Before the NEDA Board approved the tariff recommendations of the CTRM (Committee on Tariff and Related Matters), the Tariff Commission (TC) held extensive consultations and reviews under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA),” he said.

“In conclusion, we are committed to ensuring food security in the Philippines and strengthening the agricultural sector. We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including our farmers, as we work towards these goals,” he added. — BM, GMA Integrated News

Source : msn

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