Tarriffs removal may tame inflation

Rep. Joey Salceda.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda believes unimpeded rice importation may help tame inflation but stressed that the removal of tariffs would work better than margin caps on chicken and pork.

In a TV interview, the Bicol congressman said the inflation rate can go down to at least 5.8 percent provided that the rice importation becomes as “unimpeded” as intended.

“If you don’t deal with rice, you don’t deal with inflation,” said Salceda, who is also the economic adviser of House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “What is the vernacular of impede? Harang. Unimpeded, huwag harangan. If the price does not go down, then there’s an impediment.”

He added that companies and cooperatives “of good standing” with the Securities and Exchange Commission should also be allowed to import their own rice.

“In my view, when it comes to licensing and checking of bukbok, they will not tolerate that it will be served to consumers, so I think that is a good first step,” said the Albay representative, adding that it is up to President Rodrigo Duterte to “discipline” Agriculture Manny Piñol “if he doesn’t follow the spirit of the President’s instruction.”

Removing tariffs more efficient

Salceda also believes that rather than imposing margin caps on the retail prices of pork and chicken as the Department of Trade and Industry envisions, removing tariffs altogether will be a “more efficient way” to lower the prices of these products.

“Mon Lopez is my friend, but I don’t know why he’s going all through these motions, these gyrations in policy when the way to do it is just to lift the tariffs to allow external markets to come in,” he said, referring to the trade secretary.

“These are not poor. Eighty percent of the chicken and pork here are essentially by big integrators, so why would they be hurt by this? Everybody should contribute to the national solution,” he added.

Inflation in September zoomed to 6.7 percent, the fastest since February 2009.

‘Mismanagement’ to blame

In the same interview, Salceda said “mismanagement” in the implementation of Duterte’s order to import rice earlier this year is to blame for high prices of the staple grain.

The congressman said had Piñol heeded Duterte’s orders from March to import rice, the price of well-milled rice could have gone down to P41 from P49.

“The announcement per se, had Piñol not resisted, will shift the supply curve to the right, the hoarders would have to give in,” Salceda noted.

Instead, Piñol wanted to tighten sanitary phytosanitary standards even on reputable companies, he added.

“We also have fast lanes in Customs. Meaning, you know the importers and they’re given a good pass through the Customs. There’s no need to inspect and everything,” he added.

“What the President said in March was clear: let’s import. But they didn’t import. Now, the President is saying don’t stop it; you will stop it. Then that will reflect in the prices, in inflation,” Salceda said.