HOUSE COMMITTEE on Agriculture and Food chair Jose T. Panganiban, Jr. said he has filed a resolution to investigate the Zamboanga rice shortage, which was allegedly caused by a crackdown on smuggling and during which large quantities of the staple grain were found to have been contaminated with pests.
“A resolution has been filed,” Mr. Panganiban said in a briefing on Monday. The ANAC-IP representative also said he has asked the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to explain how a major city’s rice stocks could run low.
He said that the DA is responsible for inspecting rice imports including certifying whether food shipments “are fit for human consumption before they are released from Customs.”
The NFA has said that the imported rice found to be harboring pests can be consumed after fumigation.
Mr. Panganiban also highlighted the need to pass the Rice Tariffication Act to address supply problems all over the country.
Mr. Panganiban confirmed claims from elsewhere in the government that the increase of rice prices in Zamboanga was the result of a crackdown against rice smuggled.
“It happened because of a crackdown against rice smuggling from Malaysia, which used to be shipped to Zamboanga freely and kept prices low.
The proposed Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act will impose a 35% tariff on all rice imported from ASEAN countries, which he said will curb smuggling by expanding the influx of competitively-priced imports even at 35%.
The Philippines has an 805,200 metric-ton minimum access volume quota for rice at a 35% tariff, beyond which the tariffs rise considerably. The House version of the bill has hurdled third and final reading, while the Senate has two bills on rice tariffication still pending at the committee level.
“When the 805,200 MT shipment runs out, everyone who gets an import permit will pay a higher tariff. Because the tariffs are high, the rest will resort to smuggling. One good feature of tariffication is that it will curb smuggling by levying 35% on all shipments,” Mr. Panganiban said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan