An administration lawmaker said the porposed amendments on the Rice Tariffication Law would have 'safeguards' in restoring the power of the National Food Authority to help stabilize the price of rice in the market.

'Before, the NFA had monopoly in terms of rice imports, they had monopoly in terms of regulation. I would like to assure our counterparts in the Senate that this is a different scenario,' Rep. Mark Enverga, chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food security, said.

'In fact, NFA will have a very limited presence here - only in case of emergency situations and importation is merely a last resort,' the Quezon congressman explained, assuaging fears raised by Sen. Cynthia Villar about the risks of giving back the power to NFA, which may be abused.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, had expressed opposition on moves reinstating the NFA's authority to import and sell rice, citing concerns about corruption and questioning the agency's commitment to safeguarding the welfare of rice farmers and consumers.

'I understand where Sen. Villar is coming from, but the NFA has the technical know-how and expertise on these that we tend to overlook. We are instilling their mandate in monitoring, registration of all rice warehouses as the rightful agency in price stabilization of rice prices.'

Enverga delivered his sponsorship speech in plenary yesterday, and released his Committee Report 1068 on House Bill 10381 that seeks to amend the five-year-old Rice Tariffication Law, by restoring the power of NFA to import and sell rice, for the purpose of bringing down the price of rice.

'I think the worry of our good senators is mostly on importations. As I've mentioned, importation would be the last resort. We put in stringent safeguard measures here and we know for a fact that the NFA Council is very powerful wherein they could stipulate also their own safeguard measures.'

In any case, Enverga stated his intention to brief the senators on the contents and objectives of the substitute bill amending RTL, which his committee approved last week.

House Bill 10381 not only restores the NFA's price stabilization and supply regulation functions but also authorizes it to require registration of all grain warehouses, conduct inspections to ensure compliance with rice quality and supply standards, and mandates the maintenance of sufficient buffer stock requirements sourced from local farmers' organizations and cooperatives.

Additionally, the measure will bolster the regulatory authority of the Bureau of Plant and Industry, ensuring warehouse compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

The core focus of the bill lies in the continuation of the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), aimed at providing a long-term solution to challenges within the rice industry.

The House plenary is expected to commence deliberations on the RTL amendment bill today, with approval on second reading expected tomorrow when President Marcos has certified the bill as urgent.


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