The House of Representatives will start plenary deliberations today on the committee approved measure amending certain provisions of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) for purposes of bringing down the price of rice in the retail market.

In a statement, Speaker Martin Romualdez gave assurances that the legislative chamber would double the effort to hasten the plenary debates and secure the bill's approval on second reading by Wednesday.

President Marcos promised to certify the bill as urgent, which he may do so anytime this week.

'We recognize the urgency of addressing the challenges faced by consumers due to high rice prices. Through these plenary debates, we are taking decisive action to bring about meaningful change and ease the financial strain on Filipino households,' Romualdez said.

Plenary debates will commence once the RTL amendment bill is sponsored by the House committee on agriculture and food, chaired by Quezon first district Rep. Mark Enverga, whose panel approved last week the substitute measure for House Bills 212, 405, 1562, 9030 and 9547.

The substitute bill aims to bolster the competitiveness and resilience of the rice industry while ensuring affordable access to the essential staple for all Filipinos. The approval came a day after Marcos expressed his intention to certify the bill amending RTL as urgent.

Romualdez said the intention was to have the RTL amended by July, aiming to lower rice prices to less than P30 and thereby making rice more affordable for every Filipino family. Currently, rice retails between P40-45 and sometimes exceeds P50.

'By amending the RTL, we aim to bring about tangible reductions in rice prices, ensuring that Filipino consumers are not unduly burdened by high food costs,' he said. 'Lowering rice prices to less than P30 is a crucial step towards ensuring food security and economic stability for all.'

Managing inflation

Meanwhile, the main resident-economist in the House underscored the need for the national government to bring down substantially the price of rice so that all other basic commodities in the market will also be affordable to consumers.

'It's still all about rice. The inflation rates of all major commodities are in the single digits, except rice, and rice alone. The management of this rate - within our inflation targets, but still painful for the poorest households - must be centered primarily on rice,' Rep. Joey Salceda said.

According to the chairman of the House committee on ways and means, efforts spear_headed by Romualdez to amend certain provisions in the five-year-old RTL will also help.

'The Rice Tariffication Law amendments… will improve the way we manage the massive P29 billion tariff revenues from rice imports so that it helps local farmers and consumers in a more direct way,' the second district congress_man from Albay said.

President Marcos, not NFA

For Sen. Cynthia Villar, it is President Marcos who must have the special power to import rice during emergency situations and not the National Food Authority (NFA), which she said has no sincerity in serving Filipino rice farmers.

Villar said she has been the chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture for 11 years and she does not see the NFA's concern for the rice farmers.

'I don't want to give it (special power to import rice) to the NFA. If they want, just give special power to the President,' she said yesterday in an interview over dzBB.

Villar lamented that the NFA has not proven itself to be taking care of the welfare of rice farmers and consumers as she reiterated her call for the passage of the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Law to control the middlemen and traders.

Villar recalled that in 2019, the NFA was the only agency allowed to import rice without tariff and the price of rice was also high.

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