By Arjay L. Balinbin, March 27 2019; Business World

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THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Wednesday that it targets to approve “next week” the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Rice Tariffication Act submitted by the National Food Authority (NFA) Council.

In a phone message to BusinessWorld, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said: “The intent is to have it approved next week.”

The NFA Council submitted to NEDA the amended IRR on March 5, the first day of the law’s implementation.

Asked about the changes made to the revised IRR, NEDA Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said in a phone message: “Nothing substantive.”

Mercedita A. Sombilla, NEDA Assistant Secretary, said in a phone message that the specific timeline was to release it by “Friday.”

In a chance interview at the Palace, Finance Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Antonio Joselito Lambino II told BusinessWorld, when asked for an update about the IRR: “Umiikot na for signatures… (It’s circulating for signature) It was approved in principle at the last NFA Council Meeting.”

He also said he “hopes” that the IRR will be approved next week.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol has said that the draft IRR has a provision that permits the continuous sale of rice by the NFA at prices to be determined by the NFA Council, provided that such sales do not cause the NFA to lose money.

In a phone interview on March 5, Ms. Edillon said the agency was going to “check the reasons for the policy, (and) if it supports the bottomline objective which is to improve the rice trading regime.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law the rice tariffication measure last month. The new law liberalizes the import process for rice while taking away the NFA’s role in importing. — Arjay L. Balinbin