Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Monday the Executive Department is now discussing his proposal to reduce the import tariffs on rice.
Diokno issued this statement amid farmers groups’ denouncement of the proposal and mounting calls for his resignation.
He said in a statement this is part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce prices for consumers and mitigate a potential shortage of the staple due to the impact of the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.
“As discussions are underway, the Department of Finance maintains its support for an appropriate policy response that promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of Filipinos,” Diokno said.
“Rest assured that the DOF, in coordination with other relevant government agencies and stakeholders, shall pursue programs and support measures to balance the interests of domestic rice farmers while keeping rice affordable for consumers — especially the poorest households,” Diokno said.
Diokno earlier said the Department of Finance was proposing to reduce the 35 percent rice import tariff rates, both ASEAN and MFN (most favored nation) rates, temporarily to 0 or maximum of 10 percent to arrest the surge in rice prices.
Rice, which accounts for around 9 percent in the consumer basket, was one of the triggers of the higher 5.3-percent inflation in August 2023.
The PSA said the bottom 30 percent of households mostly felt the impact of higher rice prices. Data showed that regular milled rice in August 2023 averaged P43.34 nationwide, up 8.9 percent year-on-year, while the cost of well-milled rice rose 8.1 percent to P47.63.