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Philippines mulls extending reduced tariffs on pork, rice, corn: What’s at stake

The Tariff Commission has convened a public hearing to deliberate on the potential extension of reduced tariffs concerning pork, rice, and corn, which are slated to expire on December 31, 2023.

Executive Order No. 10 paved the way for the continuation of reduced tariffs on pork, corn, and rice, initially established in Executive Orders 134 and 135 back in 2021. It also extended the effect of Executive Order No. 171, which lowered corn tariffs.

Under Executive Order No. 10, the tariffs on pork were reduced to 15% for minimum access volume (MAV) imports and 25% for out-of-quota imports, down from the prior rates of 30% for both.

While rice tariffs were decreased to 35% for both in-quota and out-quota imports, they are set to revert to 40% and 50%, respectively, upon the expiration of Executive Order No. 10. Executive Order No. 171 similarly lowered corn tariffs to 5% for in-quota imports and 15% for out-quota imports, and these are poised to return to 35% and 50%, respectively.

The Tariff Commission has scheduled the public hearing for October 23.

In September, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) advocated for a reduction in rice tariffs to 10%, a proposal that received backing from Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. The Tariff Commission conducted a public hearing on the FEF petition in September.

Diokno and Balisacan spearheaded the Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook, which was established in March to closely monitor and address inflation concerns. Instead of ensuring an adequate supply of rice during the lean months of July to September, they observed rice prices on the rise, leading Malacañang to impose price caps on rice. Rather than increasing rice imports, they advocated for lower rice tariffs.

Congress holds the authority to set tariffs, but the executive branch possesses the power to adjust them when Congress is not in session. Currently, Congress is in recess and is set to resume its session on November 6, 2023.

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