The Philippines, an erstwhile rice-exporting country, has mothballed plans to import rice from Vietnam, a fellow member in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations after what Malacanang said was enough supply of the staple grains amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque stopped short of giving out figures on the volume of the country's current stocks.
The country was supposed to import 300,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam after it lifted its ban on rice exportation, but Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said last Friday this would no longer push through.
Vietnam serves as a major import source of the Philippines, accounting for over 90 percent of the country’s rice imports, the Department of Trade and Industry said.
It also said that the Philippines imports around 7 percent to 14 percent of its total rice requirement.
Under the implementing rules and regulations of the Rice Tariffication Law, the President, in the event of a rice supply shortage, may direct the Secretary of Trade and Industry and the Philippine International Trading Corporation to purchase the needed rice supplies from domestic and foreign sources to enhance market competition and stabilize rice prices.
Following the notice from Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry-attached agency Philippine International Trading Center abandoned the rice importation plan, which was initially targeted to arrive during the lean months of July and August.
The PITC is the agency tasked to implement any directive from the Department of Agriculture to import rice under a G2G arrangement, pursuant to the Rice Tariffication Law.
“The provisions of the RTL basically opens up rice importation to any private group,” Lopez said.
“It will be recalled that the initial decision for the G2G importation plan was a result of the potential threat to maintaining a good buffer supply of rice for the country. Earlier computations from DA showed a threat to the targeted level of buffer stock following the imposed ban of rice exportation of Vietnam in April,” Lopez said.