DA issues tougher guidelines on acquiring rice import permits

Marje Pelayo

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintains it is not stopping the issuance of permits to import rice.

“Hindi namin pinapa-stop (We are not stopping the importation.) We are implementing the law properly,” Secretary William Dar said.

Instead, the Department made the guidelines stricter which include inspection of storage houses.

On Tuesday (November 19), President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of rice importation because it is currently harvest time in the country.

According to the Federation of Free Farmers, stricter guidelines of rice importation is similar to stopping the process.

But they argue that the measure is just temporary while rice exporters are completing their requirements.

“In the meantime, na hindi sila maka-comply tigil muna ang export nila sa atin (In the meantime that they cannot comply, they need to stop exporting to us),” explained the farmers’ group’s Chairman Leonardo Montemayor.

The DA, meanwhile, will investigate farmers’ cooperatives and organizations who are using dummies in order to proceed with their importations.

“We will now look at three years of their business engagements kung may financial capability ba (if they have the financial capability),” Dar said.

“Mayroon ba silang warehouses? So lahat po ng pag-i-igting na iyon (Do they have warehouses? So we will intensify everything),” he added.

Dar said the President also wants to increase the buffer stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA) from 15 days to 30 days.

This would require the agency to purchase more palay from local farmers.

The NFA was also ordered to sell not lower than 20,000 sacks of rice per day.

Likewise, the unconditional cash transfer for farmers affected by the decreasing price of rice brought about by the rice tariffication law will be also be expanded to three years. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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