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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Remove non-tariff barriers

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Palace order expected to bring down food prices

Food prices will soon be cheaper under Administrative Order 20 (signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on April 18), ordering the Department of Agriculture, in coordination with the Departments of Trade and Industry and Finance, to remove non-tariff barriers, and to streamline procedures and policies regarding the importation of agricultural products.

“The AO will make food cheaper. Right now, it’s very difficult as an honest exporter to sell food to the Philippines,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said.

The Philippines has among the highest rates of protection for its domestic goods, with a protection level of around 27% as a share of farm receipts across all agricultural goods, he cited.

“With such levels of trade protection, we should not be surprised why food is expensive in the country,” Salceda noted. “Such protection levels also do not directly accrue to the agricultural sectors they are supposed to protect. They also incentivize those who can completely disregard the law or corner domestic trade.”

Apart from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, there is currently no extant mechanism for directly supporting a domestic sector through tariff revenues.

“We hurt consumers with high trade barriers, but we also do not support farmers directly with tariff revenues,” he said.

He also added that the AO by President Marcos is a step in the right direction.

“If implemented fully by the DA, it will open sugar imports to direct industrial users. This could end the stagnation of the food manufacturing sector. Right now, sugar prices in the Philippines are the highest in ASEAN,” he said.

The AO would also poke holes in speculative bubbles in the price of fish, which has high levels of non-tariff protection, such as the certificate of necessity to import.

“Of course, tariffs still play a key role. The next step is to adopt measures that earmark tariffs directly to domestic producers and consumers,” he said.

Salceda filed House Bill 2471 earmarking all agricultural tariffs directly to their corresponding domestic agricultural sectors. In addition, Salceda is also preparing to submit a technical working group report on the Livestock, Poultry, and Dairy Competitiveness Act.

“The proposal will earmark meat and dairy import tariffs towards the domestic sector. We are doing something similar for corn,” he stressed.

The DA now leads the monitoring team, and is set to craft the guidelines for the implementation of the order together with the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, Bureau of Customs, and the Sugar Regulatory Administration. They have been instructed to submit a quarterly report.

Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has directed all government agencies and urged all local government units (LGUs) to support the implementation of the Enhanced Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP) program designed to ensure food security and proper nutrition in the country.

This call came under the administration’s Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 through a two-page Memorandum Circular No. 47 signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on April 19.

“It is imperative for all government agencies and instrumentalities to support the continued and effective implementation of the EPAHP Program to bolster government efforts towards attaining zero hunger, food and nutrition security, and sustainable agriculture,” President Marcos said.

The EPAHP is one of the banner programs of the Task Force on Zero Hunger, which aims to institutionalize efforts designed to alleviate hunger and endorse food and nutrition security by linking Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to prospective markets. It also aims to provide credit assistance that would support food production, processing and distribution.

The Task Force Hunger’s job, established through Executive Order (EO) No. 10 s. 2020, as amended by EO 27 s. 2023, is to ensure the continued and effective implementation of the EPAHP Program in coordination with the relevant government agencies.

The task force is also mandated to enhance provision of farm production technologies and extension of services to government-assisted family farms and rural based-organizations. Part of this is the sustainability of the EPAHP Program through the implementation of policies that will engage private sector, and institutionalize mechanisms in LGUs.

It is also directed to adopt Community Participation Procurement that will encourage CBOs to participate in the EPAHP Program. This includes the construction, repair, and improvement of irrigation facilities and appurtenant structures in irrigable areas in the countryside.

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