The private sector has warned government of possible lawsuits for “illegally” refusing to enforce the “mandated” safeguards against rice imports in Nazi-like reasoning that it is a choice between “105 million Filipino consumers versus ‘only’10 million farmers.”
The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food (PCAFI) said the Department of Agriculture (DA) and government’s economic managers are committing an “illegal act” for deliberate abandonment of its poorest sector despite claims of “inclusive” development.
It is explicitly indicated in Section 10 Republic Act 11203 (Rice Tarrification Law ) Section 10 that “in order to protect the Philippine rice industry from extreme price fluctuations, a special safeguard duty—SSG– on rice shall be imposed.”
As such it is incumbent upon government to enforce the safeguards legal mandate.
“Although it is not their (DA and economic managers) intention, but the argument that we should choose 105 million Filipinos as against 10 million farmers (psa.gov.ph, 2018) is like Hitler justifying the killing of six million German Jews to save the German Aryan nation.
“They have yet to effectively implement the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, but they led them to slaughter,” said Lawyer Elias Jose M. Inciong, PCAFI director.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said granting farmers an additional P3 billion cash assistance in place of implementing SSG on rice imports is tantamount to “violating the law” itself.
This may subject government authorities to court suits.
“That is a clear analogy that like the German Nazi and Hitler, you are willing to slaughter 10 million farmers to save 105 million consumers. But farmers are also consumers. That’s why inflation is just at 0.9 percent because farmers don’t have the money to buy. Demand is low,” said Fausto.
The DA and economic managers are misleading the public by claiming implementing SSG is inflationary.
“This is a diversionary tactic to protect those who benefited from this law which are importers. The ones favored by this law are not consumers, much more not farmers, but importers. They’re trying to divert us from the fact that so far the importers are the beneficiaries of the law,” said Inciong.
It is utterly unfair that government is insulting its own farmers by giving a cash consolation of P3 billion (as earlier announced by DA) in place of the safeguards mandate.
“The government really looks down on farmers. It is in bad faith to even argue that safeguards are inflationary. They’re in bad faith for refusing to implement the law,” said Inciong.
“The law mandates Section 10 of RA 11203, meaning the executive has no choice but to impose it. The meaning of impose is to establish the mechanism,” said Inciong, a lawyer and also president of the United Broiler Raisers Association some of whose farmer-members are planting rice.
Government should start having a new perspective on farmers.
“Farmers don’t plant to save the agriculture industry. They plant to sustain their livelihood, to have income. The government should now see farmers not as welfare beneficiaries, but as a business sector that needs to profit,” Fausto said.
Inciong said government’s task under the law is simply to come up with a mechanism implementing the SSG based on either price or volume triggers.
If, for instance, the trigger price is set at P35 per kilo and the landed price of imported rice hits below P35, an SSG should automatically be implemented. The lower it is from the trigger price, the bigger the duties to be imposed.
“The only thing DA has to do is to issue an order requesting the Commissioner of Customs through the Department of Finance. It is in bad faith to say it is inflationary because they can suspend the SSG anytime. That claim has no credence,” said Inciong.
Unfortunately, DA is apparently refusing to even come up with this mechanism.
“The way the law was crafted and in practice, when you say impose, you establish the mechanism. The mechanism is to find out what is the trigger– when to apply the special safeguard, either price or volume trigger”
So far, the indicative volume trigger of rice imports must have already been hit as “we only need 1.9 million tons of imports, but our importation has already hit 3 million tons according to (DA Secretary William) Dar himself,” said Fausto.
Imposing the SSG will not cause prices in the domestic market to soar unreasonably since in the first place, there is a 350,000 metric ton minimum access volume (MAV) that the Philippines imports that is not covered by SSG duties.
Besides, the SSG is a flexible mechanism that is applied on a shipment basis if a price trigger is utilized. Once a shipment hits below trigger price, an SSG can immediately be applied. If international rice prices soar and local production is not enough, the government can suspend the application of the SSG.
“They can suspend the application, but they cannot avoid imposing it. R.A. 8800 even favors importers by having a maximum level of trade remedy at 10% below the price trigger. The system in place since we acceded to the WTO in 1995 has been in favor of importers” said Inciong.