THE GOVERNMENT has had to forego billions of pesos in revenue by keeping tariffs low on rice, pork, and corn imports, agricultural producers argued at a Tariff Commission hearing on Monday.
Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the reduced revenue resulting from the low tariffs produces no benefits, particularly for programs expressly funded by such import tariffs.
“Imports from non-ASEAN countries have not significantly increased, nor have they influenced retail prices,” Mr. Montemayor said, referring to the expansion of the low-tariff regime to grain suppliers from outside the trading bloc.
“In the process we have lost over (P1 billion) which went mostly to the pockets of importers and traders. This money should have gone to help our rice farmers cope with rising production costs,” he added.
ASEAN rice used to enter the Philippines at a favorable tariff, set by trade agreements at 35%, with rates from other rice sources previously set considerably higher.
A Duterte-era executive order had temporarily equalized the tariff treatment of ASEAN and non-ASEAN rice as an inflation-containment measure. The executive order also called for lowered tariffs on corn and pork.
Executive Order No. 10, signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. last year extended the low-tariff regime until Dec. 31, 2023.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said an inter-agency committee had recommended the further extension of the low-tariff regime, citing high global prices for the three commodities.
Last month, Mr. Marcos rejected a proposal to further reduce tariffs on rice, citing stabilizing global prices. NEDA had proposed to cut tariffs to as little as 0%.
Nicanor M. Briones chairman of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, also argued at the hearing that the foregone revenue from lowered pork tariffs could have been used to aid the hog industry.
He added that the current tariff regime has caused hog farmers’ earnings to decline due to competition from pork imports.
Tariffs on pork were set at 15% for shipments falling within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota and 25% for those exceeding MAV.
“(The government is) losing about P8.4 billion in revenue… which could have given to help hog farmers combat African Swine Fever (ASF),” Mr. Briones said.
The Department of Agriculture has said that the supply of domestic pork is projected to be in deficit equivalent to 10 days’ demand during the fourth quarter, as consumption picks up during the holidays.
Philippine Maize Federation, Inc. Artemio M. Salazar said that proposal to extend lower corn tariffs was “bereft of analysis of the seasonal dynamic of corn production and its effects on corn producers.”
Corn tariffs are currently at 5% and 15% for those within the quota and those exceeding it, respectively.
The Tariff Commission is looking into a possible extension of the low-tariff regime covering the three commodities at the request of economic managers.
“This could enable importers and traders to diversify sources of imports to non-ASEAN exporting countries that may offer a more competitive price on the commodities,” according to a statement signed by Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and Mr. Balisacan. — Adrian H. Halili