RICE FARMERS said the market will be well-supplied with the staple even if the government proceeds with safeguard duties that discourage further imports, though they did not say how prices will be affected.

“There will be no shortage of rice even if imports are temporarily stopped by the safeguard duties. We have more than enough rice, and the main harvest season has not yet ended,” Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a statement.

He said that domestic supply is currently sufficient without imports.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) estimates that rice inventory in September was 57.9% higher year-on-year.

Rice imports are also estimated to have totaled 2.4 million metric tons (MMT) between March, when imports were liberalized, and August, well above the 7% import requirement needed to fill the domestic production gap, equivalent to 1.5 MMT to 2 MMT.

“In the meantime, palay prices continue to drop because of the glut in the market. The only way to remove this glut is to temporarily stop imports through the safeguard duties. Once the supply situation stabilizes, the government can easily remove or reduce the safeguard duties,” he said.

The DA terminated its investigation prior to the imposition of safeguard measures, citing the need to keep inflation in check. The government’s economic team has said that safeguard duties could raise inflation by 20 basis points to 1.2%.

The FFF called the termination of the safeguard measures process as a “policy walk back” because such measures are warranted by the Safeguard Measures Act.

Safeguard measures are warranted if the government can demonstrate that domestic industries suffer serious injury to unfair competition from imports.

“The use of safeguards is a policy option specifically mentioned in RA (Republic Act) 11203 (the Rice Tariffication Law) and prescribed under RA 8800 (the Safeguard Measures Act). It is based on the rules of the World Trade Organization, of which the Philippines is a founding member,” Mr. Montemayor said.

“[It was] designed precisely to help countries cope with market emergencies brought about by trade liberalization. Not availing of these remedies, even when these are urgently needed, is the real ‘policy walk back’,” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang