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Farmers to question legality of reduced rice tariff

MANILA, Philippines —  Farmers will question the legality of the reduced tariffs on imported rice approved by President Marcos, former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor said yesterday.

“We will consider filing a temporary restraining order in court, mobilizing for nationwide protest actions,” Montemayor told The STAR.

Farmers’ groups will meet this weekend to finalize their moves against the tariff cuts.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board chaired by Marcos approved on June 3 the new Comprehensive Tariff Program for 2024-2028, which includes the reduction of rice tariff for in- and out-quota rates from 35 to 15 percent.

Marcos lowered rice tariffs until 2028 to bring down rice prices to P29 per kilo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said earlier.

All safety nets for local farmers were removed by the tariff cuts and the prior issuance of Administrative Order 20, which removed non-tariff barriers on the importation of agricultural products, Montemayor said.

“There will be strong backlash (from) farmers (and) millers across commodities like rice, corn, pork and chicken. Almost all the tariff and non-tariff protection for agriculture, especially sensitive products, were removed,” he added.

The NEDA Board’s decision is not yet executory, he noted.

“It still needs an executive order to be signed by the President between now and the resumption of Congress on the last Monday of July. We are hoping that within this period, we can still appeal to the Department of Agriculture (DA), NEDA and the President to reconsider their decision,” Montemayor said.

The reduced rice tariff will not guarantee a decline in its retail price amid price increases in the international market and the depreciation of the Philippine peso against the dollar, he argued.

Farmers were not consulted by the DA nor the Tariff Commission before lowering the rice tariff, he noted.

“As a matter of normal procedure, the Tariff Commission holds hearings before the NEDA Board decides on the tariff cuts, but this did not happen,” he explained.

The farmgate price of palay will be affected by the flooding of imported rice, Montemayor said.

“Our estimate is that