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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Senators urged to approve House bill on rice stock

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With only three session days remaining before adjournment, House leaders on Monday urged senators to consider a bill aimed at improving the country’s rice buffer stock and reducing the price of the staple food.

House Bill (HB) 10381, which seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) 8178, also known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act, as previously amended by the Rice Tariffication Law, was slated for approval on the third and final reading by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

In a press conference, Deputy Speaker David Suarez expressed hope senators can still allocate time and effort to pass the measure, which has the potential to significantly lower the price of rice by P15, thereby alleviating the financial strain on consumers.

Some senators opposed the bill due to concerns about the National Food Authority (NFA) regaining its power in rice sales and imports, citing past corruption issues.

Suarez, representative of Quezon’s  second district, argued that the proposed amendments, particularly regarding the NFA, are not about corruption but rather about ensuring food security and reducing rice prices.

“Kung maipasa po natin ito at maisabatas at ma-implement sa mabilis na panahon, mapapababa kaagad natin ang presyo ng bigas by almost P15,” Suarez pointed out.

(If we can pass this and enact it and implement it quickly, we can immediately reduce the price of rice by almost P15)

He added, “I think that in itself is an objective we should all be united for. So I hope the Senate can act on that.”

As the second regular session of the 19th Congress nears its end, House Assistant Majority Leader and Taguig 2nd District Rep. Amparo Maria Zamora urged senators to consider adopting the House version to expedite its passage.

“Kahit na three days to go na lang, umaasa po kami na ‘yung aming mga Senate counterparts, ang wish namin, i-adopt na lang sana nila ‘yung House version para hindi na po kailangang dumaan sa bicam, and therefore, mas mapabilis ang pagpasa nitong pag-amyenda sa Rice Tariffication Law,” Zamora said.

(Even if there are only three days to go, we hope that it will be ours Senate counterparts, we wish they would just adopt the House version so that they don’t have to go through bicam, and therefore, the passage of this amendment to the Rice Tariffication Law will be faster)

Congress is set to adjourn sine die on May 22.

For his part, Assistant Majority Leaders Jay Khonghun (Zambales, 1st District) and Francisco Paolo Ortega V (La Union, 1st District) emphasized the importance of the proposed legislation.

Khonghun praised the bill for aiming to help the government improve its ability to store rice and intervene in the market to keep rice prices affordable during emergencies and supply shortages.

“Nakikiusap tayo sa mga counterpart natin sa Senado na para din sa seguridad ng bigas sa bansa eh sana pag-isipan nilang mabuti at maipasa ang batas na ito,” Khonghun said.

(We are appealing to our counterparts in the Senate who are also for the stability of rice supply in the country, I hope they will think carefully and pass this law)

Ortega noted that several senators have voiced agreement with the House’s position on reducing rice prices.

However, he urged them to take action, as the bill is already considered an urgent measure.

“So, habang wala naman po silang sinasalang pa na alternatives or amendments, we are still hopeful that they will act on this kasi nga po it is already treated as an urgent measure,” Ortega said.

(So, while they are not giving any alternatives or amendments, we are still hopeful that they will act on this because it is already treated as an urgent measure)

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