ANAKPAWIS Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao urged his colleagues to support the National Food Authority (NFA) with its local procurement of rice, amid the implementation of the Republic Act (RA) 11203 or Rice Liberalization Law.
The NFA recently procured more than 1 million bags or around 52,6000 metric tons of palay during the first quarter.
On the General Appropriations Act 2019, the agency is allocated with budgetary support of P7 billion for its buffer stocking function.
“For the sake of Filipino farmers and poor consumers, we sincerely urge the members of the lower house to support the NFA on its intensified local procurement, particularly, if it requires supplemental budget to carry out its function,” the lawmaker appealed in a press statement.
The lawmaker said House Bill No. 7735, or the final version at the lower house, only intends to replace quantitative restrictions on imported rice with tariffication, and not particular on decoupling the NFA’s functions.
Almost all, except one, of the substituted bills referred to the NFA as from being the direct importer of rice to allocating import quotas among certified and licensed importers, he claimed.
“It was the senate version that seriously decoupled the NFA, not the lower house version,” he added.
It was only during the bicameral conference meeting on November 28, 2018, that the bill’s title was change from simply towards tariffication, to “An Act Liberalizing the Importation, Exportation and Trading of Rice,” that implies ridding of NFA’s regulatory function, or particularly subsidized selling of cheaper rice.
He also noted NFA’s intensified local procurement amid implementation of the RA 11203. It is 5,122% compared to its 1,027 metric tons procurement in first quarter last year, and its first quarter inventory at 887,470 metric tons account for 13% this year, as compared to a measly 4% last year. Moreover, Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol claimed that he was directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, to keep the NFA selling cheaper rice at P27 per kilo.
“If the President really ordered for the NFA to keep selling cheaper rice at P27 per kilo, then the agency must be supported, and the RA 11203 must be scrapped,” the lawmaker said.
He also stressed that even the Duterte government is halfhearted in implementing RA 11203.
According to Casilao, it is obvious why it took almost a month when the president signed RA 11203, nearing its lapsing into law.
The crafting of its Implementing Rules and Regulations took longer and its final version is still not clear on the function of the NFA on whether it could still sell cheaper rice, he said.
“We believe that President Duterte sees the detrimental impact of the law, and its repercussions, the moment it wreaks havoc on the socio-economic standing of the poor sectors,” the lawmaker said.