THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) collected P4.29 billion worth of rice tariffs in the first quarter on imported volume of 606,000 kilograms (kg), Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said at a forum Monday.

The quarter’s tally puts the BoC ahead of the pace to collect P10 billion a year from rice tariffs, which is to support the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as authorized by Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law.

In 2020, the government collected P15.47 billion in tariffs from 2.38 million kg of imports. The total was up 27.43% from collections posted in 2019 beginning in March, when the tariffication law came into force.

Total collections amounted to P31.9 billion since the law became effective.

The law removed restrictions on rice imports by private entities, which must pay a tariff of 35% on shipments of Southeast Asian grain.

RCEF will support farm mechanization and other programs to enable farmers to better compete against imports.

“The Rice Tariffication Law was finally achieved after more than thirty years of failed attempts under previous administrations. The law opened up the Philippine rice market and, in turn, lowered the price of our country’s staple for more than 100 million Filipinos, who spend about a fifth of their total budget on rice alone,” Mr. Dominguez said.

He said the law helped temper inflation, with its share of the overall consumer price index falling to 0.1 percentage point compared to its one-percentage point share at the height of the inflation crisis of 2018.

“The law ensures that farmers benefit directly from import tariffs by providing at least 10 billion pesos each year for mechanization, high quality seed, access to credit, and training,” he added. — Beatrice M. Laforga