Balisacan: Rice tariff cut to ensure affordability of rice prices

By Anna Leah Gonzales

June 10, 2024, 8:59 pm

<p>NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan <em>(PNA file photo) </em></p>

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan (PNA file photo) 

MANILA – National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Monday defended the board's move to cut the tariff rate on imported rice, noting the move aims to ensure that Filipinos have access to nutritious and affordable food, particularly rice, while managing inflation and sustaining growth.

In a statement, Balisacan said the decision to reduce the tariff rate from 35 percent to 15 percent "was not made lightly."

Balisacan issued the statement after farmers' groups called for his resignation following the announcement of the tariff cut.

"We are aware of the concerns raised by our farmers regarding the recent decision of the NEDA Board to reduce the tariff rate of rice. We understand the apprehensions and emotions that this decision has caused," Balisacan said.

Balisacan said the NEDA Board, composed of different Cabinet members and chaired by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., has unanimously approved the Committee on Tariff and Related Matters (CTRM) recommendation on the new Comprehensive Tariff Program for 2024-2028.

He added that before the decision, the Tariff Commission (TC) held extensive consultations and reviews under the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Balisacan said the consultation began as early as March 2023 with 801 stakeholders, including 192 from the agriculture sector.

In the most recent comprehensive tariff review, he said the TC also received position papers and comments from 41 private sector parties, a consumer group, 15 government agencies and a member of the House of Representatives.

Based on the inflation report of the Philippine Statistics Authority for the past three months, rice contributed over 50 percent to the headline inflation.

"Reducing rice tariffs is expected to bring down rice prices for consumers while supporting domestic production through tariff cover and increased budgetary support to improve agricultural productivity, especially as global rice prices remain elevated," Balisacan said.

In a separate interview on the sidelines of the launching of the Digital National ID, Balisacan said the Marcos administration's priority is increasing the productivity of the agriculture sector.

"That will mean we address the lack of irrigation development issues, the logistics issues, the marketing distribution issues, the access to seeds, access to planting materials, the access to fertilizers. Doon nakatutok ’yung suporta ng government (The government support is focused on that)," he said.

Balisacan noted that raising productivity is the only way to improve farmers’ welfare.

On calls for his resignation, Balisacan said it is up to the President to choose his Cabinet members.

"Of course, if the President finds a better person to run NEDA, I'll be happy to accept that because all we care about is the country," Balisacan added. (PNA)