July 24, 2018

Following President Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA), the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Tuesday renewed its call to Congress to pass the rice tariffication bill, a viable solution to temper inflation and improve the agriculture sector.

In his address on Monday, President Duterte asked Congress to deem as urgent the passage of the law amending Republic Act (RA) No. 8178, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act” of 1996, that will stabilize rice prices and address artificial rice shortage.

The President gave a stern warning against “rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors” who manipulate the prices of rice to their advantage and to the detriment of the Filipino people.

“There is no time to waste. All of us must rally behind the administration’s reform agenda, most especially the rice tarrification bill, which if implemented will make our agriculture sector competitive in the long-term,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.

Pernia said once the rice tariffication bill, filed before the 17th Congress, is signed into law and fully implemented, the prices of rice will likely go down.

In NEDA’s preliminary estimate, headline inflation rate would be reduced by one percentage point if the domestic wholesale rice market reduces its price to the level of imported rice.

Pernia, likewise, lauded President Duterte’s 3rd SONA, which brought attention to some of the Philippines’ development agenda expressly laid out in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, the country’s socioeconomic development blueprint.

Among these are the Ease of Doing Business Law, the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund, the National Land Use Act (NALUA), the comprehensive tax reform, and the aim for a universal health care system.

The Ease of Doing Business Law or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act (Republic Act No. 11032), which will enhance market competitiveness in the Philippines, was signed into law by President Duterte on May 28, 2018.

The creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, on the other hand, should exclusively benefit coconut farmers and farm workers, Pernia said.

The NEDA official also reiterated the agency’s call for the passage of NALUA, which had been languishing in Congress for two decades.

NALUA aims to protect prime agricultural lands, to provide rationalized land use planning in the country, to consolidate national laws on land uses, and to address long-standing land use conflicts.

“We all share the President’s desire to protect the present and future generations. With the passage of NALUA, we ensure the sustainable use of the country’s land and physical resources,” Pernia said.