Just a few days before it lapses into law, the Rice Tariffication Bill may yet see changes if President Duterte finds the concerns of farmers worthy of action.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in an ambush interview with reporters that the agency had submitted a position paper to the Office of the President during the weekend upon the instruction of Mr. Duterte.
“As the lead agency [regarding the matter], we were asked by the President to submit the position of the farmers and the stakeholders… The President said we should simplify what the farmers are saying, put it in a one-page memo and he will listen,” Piñol said.
Asked whether the President would veto the bill, Piñol said the former did not make any mention of it. Piñol said he was not sure how the position paper would affect the fate of the bill, a measure championed by economic managers as a means to temper inflation.
The bill will lapse into law on Feb. 15, unless Mr. Duterte decides to pursue his veto power.
“I don’t want to second guess. But having that he’s willing to listen, I would assume he is open to changes. But as to how these changes will be implemented, that’s beyond me,” Piñol said.
Farmer groups and the National Food Authority (NFA) have been asking for some changes to the bill, particularly on the provision that would strip the grains agency of its regulatory powers.
Under the bill, the NFA’s function would be limited to maintaining the country’s emergency stocks in time of calamities. It would not be allowed to license importers and regulate the entry of imported rice in the market anymore.
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