By Donna G. Brazas, Reporter
Source: Manila Times
The duty-free privileges given to the importation of farm and fishery
inputs are essential to sustaining investments in the agriculture sector, Agriculture
Secretary Leonardo Montemayor said yesterday.
This was stressed by Montemayor in supportsof a congressional
bill seeking to extend the duty-free privileges on the importation of farm and fishery
inputs to 10 years, from the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization
Act (AFMA) in 1997.
The House Bill 4379, introduced by Rep. Cynthia Villar, will
complement other proposed bills filed in Congress aimed at exempting all types of
agriculture and fisheries inputs, equipment and machinery that would have great impact on
agriculture and fisheries sector.
Montemayor said the agriculture department, as mandated under the
Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act or Republic Act 8435 and the Fisheries Code or
RA 8550, has been providing duty-free privileges for the importation of agriculture and
fishery inputs for agriculture and fishery enterprises since 1997.
According to the DA chief, the Department of Finance (DOF) estimates
the total foregone revenues from this duty-free privileges at P39.11 million, P439.44
million, and P627.55 million in 1999, 2000, and 2001, respectively or a total of P1.106
He said extending the duty-free privileges to 10 years would therefore
be a welcome development for the agricultures sector.
The DA chief, however, expressed reservation on a particular provision
in HB 4379 that reads individuals, cooperatives and other enterprises, engaged in
the importation of all types of agriculture and fisheries inputs, equipment, and machinery
be exempted from duty privilege.
We believe that beneficiaries of the duty-free privilege should
be limited to agriculture and fisheries enterprises. Apart from providing relief to these
sectors, providing the duty-free privilege solely to the agriculture sector will serve as
an incentive for investments to be put in agriculture. This will also minimize the revenue
implications of providing such duty-free privileges, he added.
Montemayor also recommended the adoption of a provision in the bill
that would allow for the implementation of guidelines as safeguard similar to executive
order number 133 which implements section 109 of AFMA.
He said the DA would like to recommend that HB 4379 also include a
provision or mechanism that would clearly define agriculture and fishery inputs.
This will safeguard domestic producers of basic primary
agriculture whose products serves as inputs to the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Such
a law could likewise provide for the formation of an inter-agency committee with the
technical capability of defining the covered products in the bills to undertake this
mandate, he said.