By Filane Mikee Cervantes

(PNA file photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has urged Congress to pass the proposal to amend the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), which would allow the National Food Authority (NFA) to import rice and stabilize prices.

In an interview in Koronadal City on Friday, Marcos said allowing the NFA to import rice would help not only farmers but also the general public, especially consumers, as it would stabilize rice prices in the market.

Amending the RTL, the President said, is only one of the measures being taken by the government to improve the lives of Filipino farmers amid various challenges to their livelihood.

Kaya’t kung pagbibigyan tayo ng ating Kongreso na makapag-import na (ang NFA), makikipagsabayan na ito. Ito naman talaga ang unang (dahilan) kung bakit tinayo ang NFA (If Congress permits NFA to import, it would be able to keep up with the private sector. This is actually the primary [reason] why the NFA was established),” Marcos said.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the proposed amendments to the RTL, under House Bill 10381, with 231 affirmative votes, 3 negative votes, and 1 abstention.

Under the bill, the NFA shall be allowed to – in the following order – purchase local milled rice; purchase up to a maximum of 30 percent brought in by accredited importers at cost; and as a final recourse, once all domestic sources have been exhausted, directly import rice, subject to explicit authorization from the Agriculture Secretary.

Aside from amending the RTL, Marcos said, the government is looking for weather-proof rice varieties to strengthen the country’s production.

He also noted that the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) would provide farmers with machinery.

Another government focus is cutting out the middlemen in agriculture to ensure higher profit for farmers, he said.

For consumers, Marcos said the government is fixing the ports, farm-to-market roads, and other infrastructures to improve the transport of not only rice but all products of farmers and fishermen.

He said the value chain of agriculture is also being improved by strengthening production and providing machinery, market intelligence, and technical information to the sector.

The government is also providing farmers with fertilizers and pesticides to increase their output.

During the typhoon season, government financial assistance programs, such as the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, are implemented to aid needy farmers, he added. (PNA)