The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Negros Occidental will wait for the formal directive from Malacañang after President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly ordered the suspension of rice importation, its head, Japhet Masculino, said yesterday.
But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo clarified that Duterte did not order Agriculture Secretary William Dar to implement any suspension of rice importation.
Masculino said there is a provision in the Rice Tariffication Law, that was signed by Duterte in February, to allow unlimited rice importation, and to follow certain procedures in suspending the implementation of the law.
“The President has the power to increase or to suspend the tariff. But there are procedures that need to be followed for suspending rice importation. For now, we will wait for the official communication from Malacañang,” he said.
Moreover, he said, there is an oversupply of rice in the country due to importation and production of local supply. He added that the oversupply is detrimental to the farmers.
Meanwhile, the average farm gate price of palay, or unhusked rice, in Negros Occidental, one of the top rice-producing provinces in the country, continues to decrease, with a price range of P10 to P12 per kilo, depending on the variety, Masculino said.
Earlier, the provincial government allocated P5 million for the purchase of palay from local farmers following the decline in the palay prices since the Rice Tariffication Law took effect.
Masculino said it is undergoing the procurement process.
The Department of Agriculture has also allocated the affected farmers P15,000 each in loan payable in eight years with no interest.
Recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agriculture Services showed that the Philippines was the top global importer of rice, beating China.*
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