The Department of Finance (DOF) has directed the Bureau of Customs to keep a tighter watch on incoming rice shipments as prices of the staple food remain elevated in Southeast Asia.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said on Monday, June 7, that rice traders from countries outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) may take advantage of high price of rice in the region.

“I think there will be a shift in the imports of Thai and Vietnamese rice, and Burmese (Myanmar) rice, to rice from other countries where the value is much lower. Just keep an eye on that,” Dominguez told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Dominguez issued the directive after President Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 135 in May that temporarily reduction in tariff rates on rice imports to offset the effect on consumers of the continuous increase in the price of rice from other countries, particularly in ASEAN.

A former agriculture secretary, Dominguez cited India as a possible source of cheap rice imports.

EO 135 reduced the tariff rates on rice imports to a uniform 35 percent for a period of one year, whether these originate within or outside the ASEAN region.

Guerrero has reported that the bureau is now reviewing the valuation of rice shipments from Vietnam after noticing that most of its imports were declared with values lower than the published prevailing prices for such exports from that country.

“We discovered that many of these importations are under a tentative assessment so we are reviewing the payments,” Guerrero said.

He said the average value of rice imports, coming mostly from Vietnam, dropped 12.7 percent to P19,312 per metric ton (MT) in May 2021, compared to P22,119 per MT in the same month last year.

The average value of rice in May was also lower than the P21,066 per MT recorded in April and P22,119 per MT in March.

Earlier, Guerrero reported increasing tariff collections despite lower import volumes because of a steady improvement in the Customs valuation system.

Preliminary data showed that from January 1 to April 30, a total of 804,360 MT of rice shipments worth P17 billion entered the country, representing a 9.2-percent decline from the 885,645 MT valued at P16.4 billion that were imported during the same period last year.

Source: Manila Bulletin (