ASEAN plans rice reserve mechanism

Inquirer Headlines / Nation

26 OCTOBER 2009


http://newsinfo. inquirer. net/inquirerhead lines/nation/ view/20091026- 232254/ASEAN- plans-rice- reserve-mechanis m



MANILA, Philippines—Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are laying the groundwork for a permanent emergency rice reserve mechanism in anticipation of more calamities hitting the region, Malacañang said Sunday.


The Philippines expressed particular interest in the initiative following the devastation wrought on farmlands by two recent back-to-back storms.


During the just ended ASEAN “Plus 3” summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other leaders tackled the need to transform into a “permanent aid mechanism” the current East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve (EAERR) Pilot Project, according to a press release posted on the Malacañang website.


With the EAERR project set to expire in February next year, the Palace said regional leaders wanted to convert it into the ASEAN Plus 3 Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR).


“They urged their respective agriculture and foreign ministers, who will meet in Brunei Darussalam next month to work closely toward the early realization of APTERR in order to ensure the continuation of regional food security mechanism after the expiration of the EARR Pilot Project,” the Palace said.


Also on Saturday, Thailand promised to donate 620 metric tons of rice, along with medicines, to typhoon victims in the Philippines.


Protection for farmers


A nongovernment group, the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), said the Philippines should not yield to Thailand’s threat not to ratify the ASEAN “trade in goods” agreement and stressed the Philippines should retain its tariff protection for rice.


Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, has said it will delay the trade accord among ASEAN members if the Philippines fails to agree on a proposed deal on rice.


But the Philippines, the world’s biggest rice buyer, says it cannot afford Thailand’s demands.


“We cannot be cowed by that threat. After suffering from the deadly onslaught of two typhoons, our government should not sell out the interest of our own rice farmers,” the nongovernment organization said in a statement.


“We have said this time and again, our rice farmers cannot afford to compete with the liberalized inflow of Thai rice that is much cheaper than our local produce,” said R1 lead convenor Jessica Reyes Cantos.


Acceptable formula


Philippine Trade Secretary Peter Favila said both countries were “committed to work toward an acceptable formula.”


Favila said the Philippines had offered a 35-percent tariff on rice imports from Thailand, and could not afford Thailand’s request of just 20-percent tariff.


Thailand said Manila could keep tariffs at 35 percent if it committed to buying a certain volume of rice imports.


But Favila said the Philippines could only commit to buying 50,000 metric tons from Thailand, lower than the request. 


Reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Amy R. Remo and Agence France-Presse  









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