DA set to review WTO protection on PHL rice


By Jennifer A. Ng
Bussiness Mirror
Posted date: June 7, 2011




THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has started the review on retaining or removing a protection on rice traded under the World Trade Organization (WTO). This particular protection on Philippine rice will expire in June 2012. 
Agriculture Undersecretary for policy and planning Segfredo R. Serrano disclosed that the review on the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice has already started at his level. 

“We cannot say yet whether or not the government will seek the extension of the QR. We have just started the review,” said Serrano in a text message. 
The review of the QR on rice is one of the priority measures for the agriculture and fisheries sectors outlined in the 2011-16 Philippine Development Plan.

Should the Philippines decide to extend the QR on rice, it would have to notify the WTO. Member-countries who wish to seek concession for allowing to extend the QR would negotiate with the Philippines. The review and the negotiation could last up to one year. 

Serrano said the Philippine Congress would need to amend Republic Act (RA) 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act. 

Under RA 8178, only rice is protected by the quantitative import restriction. The law did not specify an end-date for this provision.   

Meanwhile, Rice Watch Action Network lead convener Jessica Reyes-Cantos asked Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to conduct a public consultation with the country’s rice stakeholders on the best possible recourse for the country. 

“We cannot afford not to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013 at the earliest or before the term of this administration ends in 2016. This is the only defense of our local rice farmers against the influx of imported rice. In case of a global rice shortage, our staple food will also be subjected to a very fragile and thinning global rice trade supply. In both situations, the Filipino people will be the losers,” said Cantos. 

In June 2005, the Philippines agreed to increase the minimum access volume (MAV) for rice to 350,000 metric tons (MT) in exchange for extending the QR until 2015. 

MAV refers to the minimum volume of farm produce which it will allow to enter into the Philippines at reduced tariffs. 

The QR has allowed the government to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the Philippines every year, preventing a possible influx of cheap rice imports. 

The Philippine government filed for the extension of the special treatment on rice until 2012 since the 10-year rice quota under Annex 5 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture expired on June 30, 2005.

Extensive negotiations for it followed, with Manila holding discussions with nine countries which signified their intention to negotiate the request.

Manila had to conduct bilateral negotiations with nine WTO members, namely the United States, China, India, Argentina, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Thailand.

The government pushed for the extension of the QR citing the need to prepare Filipino farmers for international trade and to achieve rice self-sufficiency. 








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