THE Anakpawis party-list said the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law added more misery to the 2.3 million rice farmers in the country.
The partylist said palay prices have drastically declined from a range of P17 to P19 per kilo last year to P14 per kilo.
In some provinces, rice farmers complained that palay prices plunged to a range of P7 to P10 per kilo.
As the government and the main proponent of RA 11203 continue to deny the law's effect, rice farmers’ livelihood is on the brink of bankruptcy, the Anakpawis claimed in a statement.
The government is now extending loans to farmers affected by rice liberalization but Anakpawis describes the move as anti-consumer and anti-Filipino. The group added that the law depends highly on imports to supply rice in the market instead of investing to develop the local rice industry.
“The complaint of Filipino rice farmers is undeniable; the low palay price is fast becoming a national disaster for 2.3M local rice farmers. The continuing depressed farm gate prices of palay should be blamed to the enactment of the Rice Liberalization Law. In order to pacify the looming social volcano, the government scrambles the use of the Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid) or the zero-interest P15, 000 loan payable for eight years which is basically not enough. They need subsidy and not loan which is burden to them,” said Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao, former Anakpawis Party-list representative.
The government announced that around three million metric tons of imported rice will enter the country for the whole 2019. This is about 35 percent of the estimated 8.4 million metric tons locally produced in 2018.
With no solution in sight except for DA’s measly loan, RA 11203 is reducing an agricultural-based country like the Philippines as rice import republic, the partylist claimed.
“In less than a year, imported rice has snatched a significant share of the market that should have been the source of livelihood and subsistence of Filipino rice farmers. This has surpassed the issue of agriculture and economy, but tantamount to betrayal of Filipinos, in the name of subservience to imperialist-dictated liberalization,” Casilao said
Farmers and poor consumers under Bantay Bigas, Amihan and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have protested consistently the law since its deliberation in the 17th congress. Farmers’ fears now come into life as palay prices plummeted significantly, it is way cheaper than a kilo of hog feed, Anakpawis stated.
In Pampanga, a kilo of hog feed (Darak) is P12, while a kilo of palay is only P6 according to KMP-affiliate farmer’s group Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon.
The former lawmaker backed Filipino farmers calling to scrap RA 11203 and enact a nationalist and democratic rice program.
Anakpawis filed in the 17th congress the Rice Industry Development Act bill or HB 477. It was refiled in the 18th congress led by Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas and other lawmakers under the Makabayan bloc.
HB 477 is pushing for the P25-billion Rice Production Socialized Credit Program to emancipate poor rice farmers from usurious and arbitrary loans and to allow them to focus in increasing productivity.
It proposed P185 billion for the three-year rice development program, including development of infrastructure and post-harvest facilities, support to farm inputs and research and development. It also proposing another P310 billion allotted for the NFA’s local procurement program.
Casilao appealed to the rice farmers who are now speaking in the open against the RLL, to support RIDA as it is a democratic rice program. The proposed bill sincerely upholds the welfare of poor rice farmers, national food security, self-sufficiency and self-reliance, Casilao said. He also calls on the Filipino rice farmers and organizations across the country to hold the government responsible, especially the proponents of the law at the Lower House and Senate. (Reynaldo G. Navales)