By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will meet next week with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to discuss the possible lifting of the price ceiling on rice, NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said.

“We’ll more likely meet again next week because (Mr. Marcos) did say he wants us to meet again and see the numbers, see the indicators, see the outcomes versus the objectives of the price cap and then we’ll make a decision,” Mr. Balisacan said in chance remarks to reporters in Manila on Wednesday.

“But we all recognize there are so many moving parts, and this price cap could not be expected to last very long because that creates a lot of problems,” he added.

Price caps on rice have been in force since Sept. 5 to address rising prices. The ceiling has been set at P41 per kilo for regular-milled rice and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.

“What we want to see now is the lifting soon of the price cap. The President will announce that once we have all the information that he is asking us to show (and) to study the indicators that would be useful to inform that decision, hopefully in the next, in a week or so, maybe we can come up with those indicators and the President can make a decision,” he added.

Separately, Mr. Balisacan said that the proposed tariff cut on rice imports is no longer needed amid improving market conditions.

“The risk of further price increases on the world market seems to be diminished compared to the situation we were looking at a month or two ago. So that is the context” behind the President’s decision not to consider a reduction in the tariff, he said.

“Again, what you would want to do is reduce the tariff when world rice prices are increasing; increase the tariff when the world prices are decreasing to stabilize local prices and… protect our local producers, rice farmers in this particular case, and also protect our consumers, particularly the poor, and also address inflation,” he added.

Mr. Marcos late Tuesday announced that he rejected proposals to temporarily reduce rice tariffs.

“We decided with the agriculture and economic managers that… it was not the right time to lower the tariff rates because the projection of world rice prices is that it will go down. So, this is not the right time to lower tariffs,” Mr. Marcos was quoted as saying in a statement.

NEDA and the Department of Finance (DoF) earlier proposed the temporary reduction of rice import tariffs to lower domestic prices. The DoF in particular proposed to slash the 35% rice import tariff to zero percent or maximum of 10%.