MANILA -Industry stakeholders are urging the Tariff Commission (TC) to publicly release the findings and recommendations of the agency on proposals to adjust tariffs for transparency purposes.
The TC, however, said all their findings are classified as “confidential” as a Supreme Court (SC) ruling prohibits them from publishing the recommendations made by the commission.
Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) board chair Leonardo Montemayor, a former agriculture secretary, said industry players are asking the TC to reveal only their “major findings” for the “information and education of everybody.”
Montemayor, who was a four-term congressman, said both the House of Representatives and the Senate release position papers and findings of the committees concerned when they conduct public hearings.
“It is news to me because we have no idea as to what were the findings, recommendations of the TC,” he added.
The point of contention is the Sept. 28 recommendation submitted by the TC to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on a proposal to temporarily reduce the tariff on imported rice, which was then rejected by President Marcos himself.
TC Chair Marilou Mendoza said the Neda board’s Committee on Tariff and Related Matters (CTRM) is yet to discuss a petition lodged by the Foundation for Economic Freedom to arrest skyrocketing prices of the staple Filipino food.
“Our report is based on factual findings based on the parties, on our investigation,” Mendoza said.
But United Broiler Raisers Association president Elias Jose Inciong countered the agency’s pronouncement and said revealing such TC reports would inform local producers on the basis of these findings and contribute to the discourse on governance.
“I disagree with the view that everything happens in the TC is confidential because the SC decision was very clear, the subject matter of that Sereno case was minutes,” Inciong, referring to the high court’s 2016 decision that access to information is not absolute.
“We are just asking for the findings, not to find fault but to help in improving the governance… I hope the TC will seriously consider furnishing all stakeholders a copy of the findings so that we can help one another,” he added.
The TC held a virtual hearing to deliberate on a request to extend lower tariff rates on rice, corn and pork by the government’s economic development group.
Executive Order No. 10 extending the validity of most favored nation rates (MFN) of various food items will lapse by end-December.
The directive retained the MFN on fresh, chilled, or frozen meat at 15 percent for in-quota and 25 percent for out-quota.
Tariffs on imported rice were slashed to 35 percent both for in-quota and out-quota imports while for corn, it remained at 5 percent for in-quota and 15 percent for out-quota.
FFF national Raul Montemayor said they “should at least be entitled to an explanation” as to why economic managers insist on extending reduced tariffs or the entire would just be “another moro moro” to comply with the law.
Montemayor said the country has lost over P1 billion in revenues since the implementing reduced tariffs in 2021 and failed to diversify its sources of rice; hence, it was ineffective in easing retail prices.
Citing data from the Bureau of Customs, he said the Philippines heavily relies on Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members and the share of non-Asean nations ranged from only 2 to 6 percent in the past years.
“Are we missing something here? Is there a fatal flaw in the data and arguments that we have repeatedly presented?” Montemayor said.
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