THE Philippines finally beat China, in rice importation.
Had we beat China in basketball, or in defending our West Philippine Sea from their bullying naval ships like what that ship captain named Manuel Ebora did, we could celebrate.
But this is tragic, and ironic. We are a rice producing country.
Four regions in Mindanao were (emphasis in the past tense) in the top ten in rice production four years ago, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Makes you wonder, did our 80 million domestic population acquire a huge appetite for rice that we beat China’s 1.4 billion population? I think we consume more Jollibee burgers and chicken by the way these stores are growing.
The immediate blame goes to the Rice Liberalization Law, which took effect early this year as rice imports no longer are added with tariffs. This kill local rice production which cannot compete in terms of pricing. And there’s also local rice traders or middlemen who buy local rice on the cheap.
But the economic think-tank IBON Foundation blames the overall economic policy of the government to push for liberalization for the past two decades.
Their data show how shockingly we have become dependent on agricultural imports in the past three to four years. 90% of the garlic in the market are imported. 36% of beef is imported. Even garlic and potatoes, which we can grow in our backyard farms, have increased its imports by 15% in the past three years.
In just 25 years, the deficit in trade in agriculture grew from $287 million in 1994 to $8 billion in 2018.
Lack of services and subsidies to the agriculture and aquaculture sectors also contribute heavily to the crisis in food production.
We are supposed to be an agriculturally-dominant country. The previous agriculture secretary who hails from Mindanao once boasted this administration will bring the “golden age of Philippine agriculture”.
But it seems we’re helping other countries’ farmers and economy instead of helping our own. And our farms are converted into plantations that feed other countries, instead of our own.
We should see this is the reason to why farmers and Lumad are asserting their rights, because this is about food sovereignty and control of our resources for the common good. But this thought is not only being marginalized, it is being suppressed as well.
That’s globalization and liberalization for you folks. They say this is free market. They say this is being friendly to neighbors. But what if your super-rich neighbor doesn’t play fair, and doesn’t see friendship as you do?