The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) castigated the country’s economic managers for their undue haste in finalizing the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act 11203.  The economic manager have set March 5, 2019 as the deadline for issuing the IRR which is the same day the law takes effect after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

            Raul Montemayor, National Manager of the FFF, noted that RA 11203 actually provides for a maximum of 45 days after the law’s effectivity, or up to April 19, 2019, to complete the IRR.  “Why are they rushing the completion of the IRR?  Have commitments been made to some importers?  Most farmers have not heard of the Official Gazette, nor do they read newspapers, so they do not even understand what is inside the law.  The latest draft of the IRR consists of 32 pages.  How do you expect ordinary farmers to understand, much less critique, this draft in one-day ‘stakeholder consultations’?”, asked Montemayor.  The DA has been forced to hastily schedule a series of consultations in several regions from February 26 to March 1 to catch up with the March 5 deadline.

            Montemayor added that the Rice Tariffication Law has left open many questions that will need to be evaluated further and then addressed in the IRR.  “The law for example says NFA will now be limited to buffer stocking through local procurement and that buffer stocks can be released only during calamities and emergencies.  Does this mean that NFA cannot anymore sell cheap rice in the market unless there is a calamity or emergency?  Does this mean also that NFA will stop buying palay from farmers once it has accumulated enough buffer stocks?”, asked Montemayor.

            In a recent press interview, Senator Cynthia Villar, the main sponsor of the Rice Tariffication Bill, was quoted as saying that President Duterte had promised her that the NFA would continue to sell cheap rice in the market.  “If that is true, will the President have the legal authority to dip into the buffer stocks of NFA, given that the law says it can only be used during calamities?  And if he depletes the buffer stock and we get hit by a typhoon, what will he tell the typhoon victims?”, queried Montemayor.

            Montemayor chastised Senator Villar for tossing the problem to the President.  “We warned her several times of the danger of abruptly removing NFA’s price stabilization functions, but she did not listen.  She just echoed the theory of the economic managers that the free market will take care of everything.  Now she is saying the President will take care of it.  In effect, she has placed the President in a legally tenuous and politically dangerous trap in case things go awry.”, said Montemayor.