THE Finance department is pushing for further easing of various non-tariff measures (NTMs), such as fewer import permits, to facilitate easier entry of food supplies to temper the country’s accelerated inflation rate.
Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno on Tuesday disclosed that he presented to President Marcos Jr. the various short-term and long-term measures that are necessary in addressing the country’s inflation rate.
Part of these measures were the removal of the certificate of necessity to import (CNI) for fish and digitizing and centralizing of the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs) for imported food items, Diokno said.
The national government earlier loosened its import rules on onions after the Department of Agriculture scrapped the CNI requirement for the commodity allowing easier entry of the commodity. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/03/01/da-scraps-ntm-for-onion-easing-imports/)
SPSICs is an import document that certifies that a shipment is compliant with the country’s food safety and plant quarantine rules.
“A digital and centralized SPSIC system will make the applications for and issuance of import clearances faster and more efficient,” he said.
“And then there are requirements that are delaying the release of [imported] products. For example, when you import before you can release it from Customs, you will need a lot of requirements,” Diokno added.
Diokno also proposed to Marcos the implementation of Article 4 of the World Trade Organization SPS Agreement or the equivalence principle.
Diokno argued that the equivalence principle would curtail unnecessary accreditation or tests on imported goods that are already recognized compliant with the exporting or another country’s food safety or quarantine standards, which are at par or even better than those of the Philippines.
“What does it mean? It is like what happened to the Covid-19 vaccines. The US FDA said that this certain type of vaccine is already okay with them but when it arrives in our country we still examine it again and undergo our own FDA,” he said.
“So what we are saying regarding equivalence, [is that] if the imported goods are already okay with other countries and the approval is reliable, then we should not redo the approval here so we can fast-track the release,” he added.
He also recommended the removal of the required authority to release imported goods or ATRIG (authority to release imported goods) on fertilizers and feed ingredients.
Diokno explained that the Bureau of Internal Revenue will issue a memorandum circular that will remove the requirement of the issuance of ATRIG on fertilizers and feed ingredients to lessen the processing time of imports.
Diokno together with other Cabinet officials had a sectoral meeting with Marcos on the same day that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s inflation in February was estimated at 8.6 percent.
The February inflation print was slower than the 8.7 percent posted in January but remained faster on an annual basis compared to the 3 percent in February of last year, according to the PSA.