OVER the opposition of farmers’ groups to rice tariffication, Malacañang on Thursday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte will not veto the measure, with his signature “forthcoming.”
In a briefing on Thursday, the President’s spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said a farmers’ group had met with Mr. Duterte last Wednesday night regarding the Rice Tariffication Bill.
“The long and short of it, is that those he met last night were against [the bill]. But according to the President, the policy would be for the greater good… So, even if there is some opposition, it looks like he will go through with it,” Mr. Panelo said.
“They want it vetoed, but I don’t think the President will,” he added.
Asked when the President will sign the measure, he said: “I think it’s forthcoming.”
Mr. Duterte, according to Mr. Panelo, told the farmers that the bill is “for the greater good.”
Last month, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Business Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a statement: “The economic thinkers are saying that a free market will ensure that rice prices will go down even without NFA (National Food Authority). They could be correct but what if they are wrong? What if importers collude to bring up prices? What if they refuse to import because prices are too high? What if palay prices suddenly go down because of excessive imports? The government will be practically powerless in all these scenarios under the proposed bill.”
Mr. Montemayor added that the bill “should focus only on the removal of volume restrictions on rice imports. This is all what we have to do under our commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The issue of what happens to NFA and the role of government in the rice trade must be addressed separately and only after a comprehensive study and following genuine consultation with stakeholders.”
Also during the briefing, Mr. Panelo said that during the Cabinet meeting last Wednesday evening, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol presented his department’s programs for improving the lives of farmers and fisherfolk.
“These are farm-to-market roads, irrigation, which includes solar powered irrigation system to be financed by an Israeli company, storage facilities, activation of regional food terminals and strengthening of the (roll-on, roll-off shipping) programs, easy-access credit for farmers, and institutionalization of a farmer/fisherfolk credit union,” Mr. Panelo said. — Arjay L. Balinbin