The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government’s economic managers will suggest to President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent a bill that will replace the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs.
“We will suggest to him that it could be declared a priority bill so that it can be approved sooner rather than later,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told reporters in an interview.
Senate Bill 1476, filed by Sen. Ralph Recto, seeks to replace the quantitative import restrictions on rice with a bound tariff rate system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) . The bill is pending before the Congress.
The extended quantitative restrictions on rice expired on June 30, creating the need to pass a law replacing the rice import quotas.
Quantitative restrictions limits the volume of agricultural goods traded by a country.
The Philippines was given an initial exemption because rice as a commodity is highly sensitive in nature. The deadline was extended twice—in 2005 and in 2015—and a waiver was obtained for another extension to July 2017.
Pernia said the economic managers will write a formal request to the President before his State of the Nations Address (SONA) on July 24.
“We will write a letter so that we will have the opportunity to raise the issue since there are only two weeks before the SONA,” he added.
In the meantime, the government extended Executive Order 190 that reduces the rate of duty on agricultural produce for another three years, Pernia said.
“As the deliberations in Congress will take some time, what we are trying to do is to not infuriate the members of the WTO in terms of retaliation by extending the concessions on lower tariffs on certain products,” he said.
Under EO 190, the concessions on lower tariffs will be extended to certain agricultural produce and the minimum access volume of 5,200 metric tons granted to interested WTO parties until June 2020 or until the Congress approves lifting quantitative restrictions in favor of tariffication.
“Whichever comes first. 2020 is quite distant, so we hope that the approval of the tariffication will come sooner so that we don’t have to be extending concessions,” Pernia noted.