Imported rice should not be taxed and allowed to be traded by the private sector to strictly regulate the market, a lawmaker and former National Food Authority (NFA) administrator said.
Nothern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, an administration ally, criticized the government for allowing private individuals to import rice when there is still an enough supply from local farmers.
“That is my current advocacy to President [Benigno Aquino 3rd]: to abolish the taxes on importation and it should be the NFA to exclusively import rice because [smugglers]use their power and influence to import rice. That’s the anomaly there,” Ong said.
During his time at the NFA, Ong said that there is no smuggling because it is the NFA that solely imports rice at zero tariff and this would only be done when rice supply of local farmers are already bought by the government at high prices.
“It is anomalous when the government agrees to import rice at a price of P35 per kilo, yet the NFA is only buying the palay of the farmers at P17 per kilo. Basically it’s like you are buying the palay of foreign farmers at around P25 kilo since palay prices are 80 percent of rice prices,” Ong explained.
“Why is it like that? During my time, the price of our rice is at five pesos, we never bought palay above that. It’s a losing streak, but it’s beneficial to farmers,” adding that the government should buy palay at higher prices to subsidize them.
The lawmaker also does not believe that government officials do not know who the alleged rice smugglers are because they issue permits to rice importers.
“It is impossible to make me believe that they do not know who the smugglers are because in the first place, they issue permits to them. It should be properly investigated,” he said. JHOANNA BALLARAN