RICE TARIFFICATION LAW TO BOOST CUSTOMS REVENUES
CEBU CITY — Fully lifting quantitative restrictions on rice import under the rice tariffication law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last February 15 will mean a boost to Customs revenues in district ports, a Cebu customs official on Wednesday said.
Lemuel Erwin Romero, deputy collector for assessment of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Cebu, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview that under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tarrification Act of 2019, importation of rice will no longer need import permit (IP) from the National Food Authority (NFA).
“Rice tariffication levels the playing field in importing rice. Even rice retailers or wholesalers can now import rice under the new law as long as they pay the correct tariff,” Romero said.
Although the district port is yet to receive directives from its central office pending approval of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), he said they are readying their personnel in case the law is fully implemented.
He said district ports like Cebu need the guidelines for BOC personnel in charge of valuation.
Under the law, if the rice is imported from countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the tariff rate is 35 percent of the value.
If the rice import is within the minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons of rice from countries outside ASEAN, the law imposes a 40-percent tariff.
For rice imports outside or beyond the MAV and at the same time originating from non-ASEAN country, the law slaps a tariff of 180 percent of the value.
“The law clearly provides for the tariff rates, (customs) examiners can no longer play with valuation,” Romero said, explaining that “if the quality of rice imported is better, it has higher value and since the value is higher, the higher the duties to be paid.”
He did not, however, discount the possibility that unscrupulous importers may resort into technical smuggling through misdeclaration of quality and weight of rice import.
“We need to be vigilant against misdeclaration of quality and underdeclaration of quantity or weight (of the rice import),” he said.
Capt. Jerry Arizabal, chief of Cebu Customs Police Division, in a separate interview with PNA, said Customs needs to be cautious on quality of rice to be imported.
“Merong five percent broken so yun ang magandang quality. If 25 percent, mura na yan so mababa ang value ng rice so mababa din ang mabayaran na duties kasi mababa ang value (Good quality rice contains five percent broken. If it contains 25 percent broken, that’s the low-quality rice which means lesser in value, and because the value is lesser, the duties to be paid is lower),” Arizabal, who is also a licensed customs broker, said.
Romero added that “players” may face difficulty in misdeclaring its weight because of strict weight monitoring of goods arriving at the Cebu International Port (CIP).
“Right now, we have safeguard as to the weight of the goods. We require magna scaling of all the goods that enter our jurisdiction,” he said.
He said the weighing scale at the CIP yard intended for containerized cargos has made the job of customs examiners and appraisers easy in determining if the actual weight of the goods is the same as reflected in the customs entry and in computing the right duties and taxes.