A council headed by Cabinet officials asked state-run National Food Authority to submit a restructuring plan within 30 days as the open rice trade is set to start on March 3.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III headed the NFA Council meeting Monday following the signing of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act by President Roderigo Duterte on Feb. 15. The new law that amended RA 8178 lifted the quantitative restrictions on rice and replaced it with 40-percent tariff.
The NFA Council also instructed the NFA to submit a restructuring plan within 30 days, instead of the initial proposal of 180 days.
Dominguez presided over the meeting as endorsed by Agriculture Secretary and NFA Council chairman Emmanuel Piñol, who was unavailable during the meeting.
“Our objective in liberalizing rice imports is to bring down the costs of the staple. Our price is 50-percent higher than the others, including Singapore which does not produce rice. Will it take us 180 days to effect a reduction in the cost of living our the people?” said Dominguez during the meeting.
Dominguez proposed during the meeting that the National Economic and Development Authority determine what funds could be freed up as a result of the restructuring of the agency to ensure that farmers would receive the support they needed.
The Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund mandated under the rice tariffication law is still in the process of being set up.
The meeting was called to immediately discuss the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11203.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez proposed that the shift to a tariffied regime as mandated under the law be done as soon as possible.
Lopez said the reorganization of the NFA could be done separately from the move to shift from quantitative restrictions to tariffs which should be implemented faster.
The council also approved the transfer of the NFA functions to the Department of Agriculture as provided under the rice tariffication law, effective March 3.
Dominguez said the transfer of the Food Development Center from the NFA to the DA could also be done in a short time instead of the NFA proposal of 60 days.
Other officials who attended the meeting were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan, Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, Monetary Board member Bruce Tolentino and representatives from the NFA, Neda, Land Bank of the Philippines, DA, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Social Welfare and Development.