By Wilnard Bacelonia

NO TO RICE IMPORTATION. Senator Imee Marcos joins on Tuesday (Sept. 26, 2023) protesters in front of the Department of Finance denouncing the proposed temporary reduction of rice import tariffs. The lawmaker said she is certain that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will not allow rice importation amid the harvest season. (Photo courtesy of Office of Senator Imee Marcos)

MANILA – Senator Imee Marcos on Tuesday said she is confident that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will not let rice farmers suffer by allowing rice importation now that they are harvesting their produce.

The presidential sister made the statement as she joined protesters from various farmers’ groups outside the Department of Finance in Manila denouncing the importation of rice and other agricultural products.

The group of rallyists was led by Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) led by Rosendo So.

“Sigurado ako na hindi ‘yun [President Marcos] papayag. Ang nakakatakot lamang, alam natin na ang katapusan ng Kongreso ay bukas. Kapag natapos ang Kongreso at nagsara ‘yung Senado, ang nakakatakot diyan ay palulusutin ‘yung reduction o ‘di kaya zero tariff na importasyon sa kasagsagan ng anihan (I’m sure President Marcos will not allow it. What’s scary is we know that Congress will adjourn tomorrow. If the Congress and the Senate adjourns, what’s scary is someone will let reduction or zero tariff importation slide amid the harvest season),” the senator said.

“Sobra naman sila. Nag-aani na ang lahat. Magsisimula na ang halos lahat ng bukid at ang kasagsagan niyan ay sa katapusan, ngayon itong linggo na ito hanggang buong Oktubre (That’s too much. Everyone is harvesting. Farms are about to start and its peak is at the end of this month, this week until October),” she added.

She said she brought water and bread for them to express her support knowing that the President is also against rice importation.

“Wala eh, lahat ng barkada ko andito eh. Lahat ng kaibigan natin na magbubukid, mangingisda – lahat ng nanggaling sa Northern Luzon hanggang sa Central Luzon pati barkada galing Southern Luzon andito po. Nakikisuporta lang ako (All of them are my friends who are farmers, fisherfolk from Northern Luzon up to Central Luzon and Southern Luzon. I’m just supporting them),” she said.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said they are proposing the temporary reduction of rice import tariffs to help reduce prices.

Diokno said while price controls, when carefully calibrated and closely implemented, are effective in the near term, they also have adverse effects if allowed to linger for a longer period.

The DOF chief is proposing the reduction of the 35 percent rice import tariff rates for both Association of Southeast Asian Nations and MFN (most favored nation) rates temporarily to zero percent or a maximum of 10 percent to arrest the surge in rice prices. (PNA)