THE Tariff Commission (TC) has started the comprehensive tariff review program (CTRP) of the most-favored nation (MFN) tariff schedule covering the period 2024 to 2028, as required by Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

In a virtual hearing on Monday, the TC said that the CTRP is performed every five years to adjust the MFN tariff schedule.

The scheduled review of the CTRP in 2020 for the period 2021 to 2025 was postponed to accommodate the new administration and the implementation of the 2022 ASEAN Harmonized Tariff Nomenclature.

The product sectors covered by the CTRP for 2024 to 2028 include agriculture and food products; chemicals; textile, paper, wood, and leather; metals and non-metals; and machinery and transport equipment. All categories will have separate public hearings, with the agriculture and food products scheduled for the first hearing on Monday.

During the hearing, US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) country manager Mac Macatangay said the group is pushing for the reduction of the MFN tariff rate on imported yogurt to 3% from the current 3% to 7%; and for imported cheese to 2% from the current 3% to 7%.

USDEC represents the trade interests of US milk producers, dairy cooperatives, and traders.

Mr. Macatangay said the tariff reduction will diversify the Philippines’ supply of dairy products. The main suppliers of dairy products to the Philippines are Australia and New Zealand, which benefit from the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand free trade agreement.

“The US is not the primary market shareholder in the Philippines but rather is an additional supplier,” Mr. Macatangay said.

“Overreliance on these two suppliers poses credible risks to ensuring a sufficient supply of commodities,” he added.

Jose Gabrielle G. Petrache, Golden Arches Development Corp. representative, also pushed for a zero tariff on frozen potatoes, citing surging inflation.

Golden Arches is the parent firm of McDonald’s Philippines. Currently, potatoes are charged tariffs ranging from 3% to 40%.

“The tariff rate imposed on frozen potatoes will most probably aggravate the already negative effects of an already increasing consumer price as brought about by the unprecedented levels of inflation,” Mr. Petrache said.

“As an international brand, we have a standard for how we produce our products. If we choose to have alternative sources, it might impact our products…High tariffs imposed on imported products will tend to increase the prices that our consumers will have to pay,” he added.

Ric M. Pinca, Philippine Association of Flour Millers executive director, also pushed for the retention of the zero tariff MFN duty on food-grade milling wheat imports and the retention of the 7% MFN duty for wheat flour imports in the next tariff cycle.

“The flour milling industry has enough capacity to (meet) wheat flour demand. Thus, we propose to retain the 7% MFN duty,” Mr. Pinca said.

Rosemarie S. Gumera, Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc. representative, said the group opposes any MFN tariff adjustment on sugar, saying that it would affect the livelihood of over 80,000 sugarcane farmers and over 700,000 workers.

“Tariff reduction under the MFN will topple the economies of sugarcane producing provinces,” Ms. Gumera said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave