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‘Single window’ needed in rice tariff law: official

The implementation of the law on rice tariffication must compel the government to adopt the single-window program on importation, said a top official of the office of Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, principal author of the law.

At the sidelines of the public consultation on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11203 yesterday, lawyer Rhaegee B. Tamaña, said it is necessary for the government to implement the single-window program to ensure transparency.“In the law there is a compelling reason for BOC to implement the single window program that has yet to be implemented. We are the advocate of that in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), but we are the only one (not implementing it),” said Tamaña.

She said that with this program, the IRR must spell out how the Department of Agriculture is “able to harmonize the collection efficiency of the (Bureau of) Customs (BOC) because even if rice is imported but (the importer does not pay the tariff), there is nothing.”

Under the single-window program, anything recorded from the origin of the product will be transmitted to the receiving country so that the real tariff can be computed and will prevent collusion among the importers and government officials.

She explained that the government must be able to strictly impose the law so that the tariff that is expected to be collected within the six years of its implementation will be able to help assist local farmers to increase productivity and make prices of local rice as competitive as those imported.

Under the law, the amount to be collected will all go to farmers to help them improve their productivity as the goal is to make them competitive to ensure that local rice prices will also be at par with those of imported ones.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the law, which replaces the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, on February 14. The new law, which imposes tariff on rice, replaces the quantitative restriction on the commodity as the previous law allowed the entry of the commodity based on volume.

This developed as farmer groups urged the government to make it easier for them to access funding.

Balbino A. Alingalan, president of the Davao Oriental Seed Producers Cooperative in Banaybanay town, said that at present, even government financial institutions require each member of a cooperative to pass his or her documents.

“In the case of the cooperative, the one that should only be required is the cooperative because if a member fails to pay the loan, the cooperative must be made answerable,” said Alingalan whose group is among those attending the consultation, the third for the law.

At present, he lamented, the problem is that it is hard for a farmer to borrow from formal lenders because the requirements are very difficult to comply with.

Alingalan added that government should also set aside funding to teach farmers financial literacy so that their farms because their investments.

He also wanted that young individuals will go to farming also as farmers have become old and that the young generations do not to go into farming.

“There must be fund for awareness both (to encourage the youth as well as financial literacy,” he said.

The government should also find ways to help reduce rates of farm inputs to improve both productivity and income, he added.

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