MABALACAT CITY -- The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) said the bulk of rice imports in National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses is a problem created by the country's dependence on rice importation as a result of neoliberal policies implemented by past and present administrations.
The 293,000 MT of palay, which is equivalent to 4.5 million bags of rice, is equivalent to nine days buffer stock at 32,000 MT daily consumption, the group said.
"The government's blind compliance to the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA) has tied the country to a minimum access volume of 805,000 metric tons," Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.
The group said that since the country's membership to WTO in 1995, more than 10 percent of the country's rice supply is imported.
The highest rice importation was recorded in 1998 when rice imports reached two million MT or 28 percent of the country's rice supply, 19 percent in 2010, 18 percent in 2008, and 15 percent from 2006-2007 as compared to only 0 to 9 percent before 1995.
"Natali din sa P17 kada kilo ang buying price ng NFA sa loob ng isang dekada habang umabot sa P20 kada kilo pataas ang bili ng mga pribadong trader noong mga nagdaang taon kaya mas gugustuhin ng mga magsasakang magbenta ng palay sa mga trader," Soriano said.
"The Rice Liberalization Law (Republic Act 11203) has worsened the situation as NFA's mandate to stabilize rice prices has been removed and limited its role to buffer stocking," Soriano added.
"Ngayong bumagsak ang presyo ng palay, limitado ang budget ng NFA para sa bumili ng palay sa mga magsasaka. Kung bibilhin sa P17 kada kilo ang palay, mahigit 400,000 MT lamang ang mabibiling palay ng P7 bilyong pondo ng NFA para sa buffer stocking," Soriano said.
Amihan, together with various organizations, including Bantay Bigas, reiterated their call to repeal RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law and strengthen the local rice industry.
This, they said, will ensure the country's self-sufficiency and food security through the enactment of House Bill 477 Rice Industry Development Act and House Bill 239 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.