Rice tariff cut ’best option’ amid Covid-19 pandemic: Panelo

MANILA – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Saturday viewed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to lower rice tariffs as the “best option” amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

During his commentary show “Counterpoint,” Panelo assured the public that the reduction of tariff rates on imported rice underwent a thorough review.

“Pinag-aralan nila iyan at iyan ang pinaka-the best option (That has been studied and considered as the best option),” Panelo said. “Hindi naman gagawin iyan ng ating pamahalaan kung hindi nila napag-aralan na kailangan nating gawin. May problema nga tayo sa supply (The government will not do that if they did not study that. We have a supply problem).”

Executive Order (EO) 135, inked by Duterte on May 15, lowers the tariff rates on imported rice to 35 percent from 40 percent for in-quota imports and 50 percent for out-quota imports for a year.

On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the rice tariff cuts were necessary to ensure rice security in the country and address the 10-percent supply shortfall.

Roque also assured local farmers and rice producers that the government would not import rice during the harvest season so as not to affect the local prices of the food staple.

‘Balancing act’

Panelo said EO 135 serves as “balancing act” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Kaya nga ginagawan ng paraan. Balancing act nga ho sa panahon ng pandemya (That’s why we are looking for a solution. That is a balancing act amid the pandemic). We have to balance how to respond to it,” he said.

Panelo issued the statement after several senators expressed opposition to Duterte’s decision to adjust tariff rates on imported rice.

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, and Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution 726 urging Duterte to withdraw EO 135 because there is “no reasonable and sufficient” basis to reduce rice tariffs.

The senators also argued that Duterte’s fresh order would only “cause more burden to our local rice farmers, further increase our import dependency, and cost the government millions in foregone revenues.”

Panelo stood by Duterte’s latest move, which he said, is to ensure a sufficient supply of rice in the country.

“Alam niyo, mawawalan nga ng revenue. Eh binabaan mo. Pero ‘yun pong sambayanan ay hindi po magkakaroon ng hirap dahil supisyente ang suplay ng bigas (It is already expected to lose revenues because we cut tariff rates. However, our fellow countrymen will not suffer because we have sufficient rice supply),” he said. (PNA)

Credit belongs to : www.pna.gov.ph

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