Malacañang: Duterte approved 'unimpeded' rice importation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte approved "unimpeded" rice importation during the Cabinet meeting on Monday night, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday.

"Wala na pong restrictions ngayon, basta magbayad lang po ng taripa," Roque told reporters during the press briefing in Malacañang.

[Translation: There are no more restrictions, as long as the tariffs are paid.]

Roque said the directive aims to curb the effects of inflation, which has gone up for the ninth straight month at 6.7 percent in September. He added the tariffs will be used to help the local rice farmers.

The spokesperson claimed there was a thorough discussion of the issue during the Cabinet meeting.

"It was a very hot issue. It was very animated. And, we were one of three who had very strong views about the need of controlling inflation through increasing the supply of the rice in the country," he said.

He then this order strips the National Food Authority of the power to regulate the amount of imports and the power of accrediting rice importers.

"With this order of the President, wala na pong ganyang restrictions [there are no more restrictions]. It's a free market now for rice. Well, of course they need to secure import permits," he said.

However, Roque said the President will continue to push for the rice tarriffcation bill, which aims to lift the limits on rice imports in exchange for general tariffs.

The House of Representatives passed the rice tariffication bill in August. A counterpart bill is pending at a Senate committee.

In September, Duterte has approved Administrative Order No. 13, which aims to remove several administrative barriers in the importation process of agricultural products. The order streamlines the application process for food imports through minimizing processing time, liberalizing issuance of trader permits and accreditation, and reducing importation fees.