De Lima in a dilemma over rice importation

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THE Department of Justice on Monday admitted that the expiration of the World Trade Organization (WTO)-granted “special treatment” which permitted the Philippines to set quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice importation has created “hanging issues on interpretation.”

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the issue has become contentious and needs an immediate resolution.

“The international law was ratified by the President and concurred by the Senate, and has [since]become part of our body of laws.

Kailangang sagutin ang tanong, alin ba ang magpre-prevail, ang [We have to answer the question: "which should prevail, the] WTO Agreement or the domestic law?” she said.

The DOJ has yet to issue a legal opinion on the matter and the case might even reach the courts as its arbiter on the contending issue.

It became an issue after the Senate agriculture committee on rice smuggling asked the DOJ to issue its official position on the matter of whether the Philippines can limit private sector importation of rice despite the expiration of the WTO-granted privilege in June 2012.

“We are currently studying the matter and we are looking at varying interpretations. Now if we go by the strict legal sense, I’m afraid we . . . have some problems there. Because, as we very well know, the WTO– that is a commitment. That forms part of the law, the maxim pacta sunt servanda,” de Lima told the Senate panel recently.

“Remember, we have no law that prohibits rice importation and as a matter of fact, we allow it. Only, the NFA [N[National Food Authority]s regulating it,” the DOJ boss stated.

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