PAMPANGA

Local execs urged to protect farmers

MABALACAT CITY -- The Anakpawis Party-list has urged local officials to stand by the farmers' demands and join the clamor to repeal the Rice Liberalization Law.

The group at the same time asked the local leaders to support House Bill 477 or Rice Industry Development Act (Rida), which is being pushed by House members under the Makabayan bloc.

The partylist also recognized the statement of Vice Mayor Walter Marquez of Sablayan town in Occidental Mindoro demanding the suspension of the law.

"We urge executives of rice producing local government units should follow the move of Vice Mayor Marquez to call for the suspension of the Rice Liberalization Law, and to totally demand its repeal. It will lead to the destruction of the national and local rice industry and food security, and livelihood of poor rice farmers," Anakpawis Party-list former representative and co-convenor of Bantay Bigas rice watchdog Ariel "Ka Ayik" Casilao said in a press statement.

Casilao was the primary author of House Bill 8512 Rida during the 17th Congress and staunch opposition of the Rice Liberalization Law.

Marquez said the impact of Republic Act (RA) 11203 has been their regular agenda, and farmers of the town's 22 rice-producing barangays are affected by the depressed farm gate prices.

He also blamed the "full blast importation of rice" as cause of plummeting farm gate prices.

Sablayan is recognized as a Rice Achiever's Award from 2011 to 2013 and reached food self-sufficiency at 98 percent.

On a separate post of the vice mayor, he urged for the implementation of (1) serious production support such as irrigation, affordable rates of use of farm equipments; (2) pro-farmer agrarian reform program; (3) subsidy to rice producers; (4) inclusion of peasant organizations in formulating rice industry policies; and (5) local ordinances based that are environmentally sound and for sustainable agriculture.

"The wisdom of Vice Mayor Marquez is far more superior and pro-people than of the proponents of the law, who are in conflict of interest with agriculture and favor land-use conversion of prime agricultural lands for giant profits," he said.

In a children's book entitled "Seeds of Life" authored by Senator Cynthia Villar, the primary author of RA 11203, she blamed the farmers for not having the proper business sense, not understanding how to run the farm efficiently, borrow from illegal money lenders, and for not having the proper farm education.

"It is displeasing to hear and see policy makers belittle the already marginalized peasant sector, engrossed in landlessness, land rent, usury and other forms of semi-feudal exploitation, and blamed for their not having a 'business sense.' The storyline is totally alien to the present social conditions of the country, and inimical to the sector who produces the food requirement of the whole society," Casilao said.

He said Filipino rice farmers are basically cultivating for subsistence and not for profit.

Prior to the enactment of Rice Liberalization Law, the peasant movement Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis Party-list have been opposing it.

Casilao said it resulted in the influx of imported rice brought about by the entry to the World Trade Organization and Agreement on Agriculture since the mid-1990s.

"The hunger for profit will make policy makers appear like imbeciles, in their denial to the obvious impact of the law and liberalization of agriculture. They are drumbeating the supposed benefits which are exclusive to foreign monopoly, comprador big traders, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. They deny the hammering impact on peasants. They even deny the occurrence of depressed farm gate price at P7 per kilo of palay," he said.


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