June 15, 2021 at 10:20 pm
Senator Cynthia Villar has rejected accusations by the Federation of Free Farmers that she deliberately remained silent on Executive Order 135 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 15.
“By alleging that I have remained silent and thus supports the lowering of tariff on rice is unacceptable,” Villar said.
The FFF earlier called out Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, for her alleged inaction on the order imposing lower rice tariffs.
Effectively, EO 135 would mean that all imported rice without distinction as to country of origin and volume would be subjected to 35 percent tariff for a period of one year instead of 40 percent for in-quota and 50 percent for out-quota.
The government said this was done to help “diversify the country’s market sources, augment rice supply, maintain prices affordable and reduce pressures on inflation.”
But stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including local farmers, bewailed the order, stressing this would be an added burden to them.
In her letter to FFF, Villar said she has always been a staunch supporter of the local agricultural industry and has sought for the improvement of the welfare of Filipino farmers.
The senator added she has been pushing for legislation that empower and enrich the lives of Filipino farmers.
The senator said FFF itself noted she opposed the proposed tariff cut during the Tariff Commission hearing on February 4. Villar said she has made her position against the EO in several hearings, correspondences and meetings with Agriculture Secretary William Dar, other members of the executive department and her fellow senators.
Regarding Senate Resolution No. 726 which urges Duterte to withdraw the controversial EO, Villar said she cannot tackle it in the Senate since the proposed resolution was not referred to her committee. It was, instead, referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
“I want to reassure our rice farmers that I will continue to take into the highest consideration their welfare in the exercise of my functions. While the issuance of the questioned EO is under the
President’s power, I will do everything in my power to work on other aspects of agriculture that would counter the ill effects of the EO on the rice sector,” Villar said.