Single-window program called for on rice tariffication

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Vietnam rice

By Carmelito Q. Francisco, Correspondent,
and Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio, Reporter

WITH THE implementation of the law on rice tariffication, the government must adopt a single-window program on importation, said a top official of the office of Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, principal author of the law.

At the sidelines of a public consultation Thursday in Davao City on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11203, lawyer Rhaegee B. Tamaña said the government must implement the single-window program to ensure transparency.

Under the single-window program, anything recorded from the origin of the product will be transmitted to the receiving country so the real tariff can be computed and this will prevent collusion among importers and government officials.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed RA 11203, which replaces the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, on February 14. The new law, which imposes tariffs on rice, replaces the quantitative restriction on the commodity as the previous law allowed the entry of the commodity based on volume.

“In the law there is a compelling reason for BOC to implement the single window program that has yet to be implemented. We are the advocate of that in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), but we are the only one (not implementing it),” said Ms. Tamaña.

She said that with this program, the IRR must spell out how the Department of Agriculture is “able to harmonize the collection efficiency of the (Bureau of) Customs (BOC) because even if rice is imported,…there is nothing, (the importer does not pay the tariff).”

Ms. Tamaña said the government must be able to strictly impose the law so that the tariff that is expected to be collected within the six years of its implementation will be able to help assist local farmers to increase productivity and make local rice as competitive as imported rice.

For his part, Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II said rice tariffication will serve to deter smuggling.

Rice smuggling in the Philippines will be significantly reduced with the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act, according to an official of the Department of Finance (DoF) on Friday.

“I think we are confident that the level of smuggling will be reduced by a significant amount. I think zero smuggling for an archipelago is probably not a realistic goal but what we want to make sure is we bring it down to as low a level as possible. Sa rice, ang maganda riyan, nawala ang incentive. The biggest incentive for smuggling was so high, pero ngayon na nagtariffy na tayo (What is good there, the incentive was gone. The biggest incentive for smuggling was so high but now that we will already tariffy), the import price will be born by the importer plus a manageable tariff that will go to the farmers,” Mr. Lambino told reporters at the sidelines of the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City.

Mr. Lambino noted that prior to the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act, rice importers should secure first licenses from the National Food Authority (NFA). With the roll-out of the law, importers are no longer required to secure licenses but only sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) permits from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) which would serve as proof that the goods being imported are safe for consumption.

“Nawala na yung main incentive for smuggling dahil unang una, hindi na nila kailangan ng lisensya…Ngayon dahil kahit sino ang pwede mag-angkat ng bigas (The incentive for smuggling is now removed because in the first place, they no longer need a license…Now, anyone can import rice already) as long as you’re willing to pay a manageable tariff that we’ve agreed with ASEAN neighbors through ATIGA [Asean Trade in Goods Agreement], it brings about good behavior, in other words,” Mr. Lambino said.

Mr. Lambino also said that traders are less likely to hoard rice stocks because even if they do so, other importers will continue to bring in the commodity.

He likened the Rice Tariffication Law into a three-in-one coffee mix, which would be good for the farmers, traders, and consumers.

The Rice Tariffication Act is set to be implemented starting March 5. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is also now accepting suggestions from the public by sending the proposals online, while the Department of Agriculture (DA) is on its last day of meeting with rice stakeholders nationwide on Friday, which started last Monday.