MABALACAT CITY -- The Bantay Bigas rice watch group, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and Anakpawis Party-list said Filipino rice farmers lost at least P74.8 billion in 2019 due to low farm gate prices of palay.
The three groups blamed this on the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203, or Rice Liberalization Law.
"It has been a trend, since the country joined the World Trade Organization in 1995, when there was even the slightest buzz of arrival of imported rice, farm gate prices at the barrios are forced down by traders, throwing farmers into bankruptcy and indebtedness. It is worse now, because it was institutionalized by RA 11203," said Rafael Mariano, former Anakpawis Party-list lawmaker.
Anakpawis stated that it opposed the law during its deliberation at the Lower House and as alternative primarily pushed for the Rice Industry Development Act (Rida) bill during the 17th congress.
The bill, now House Bill 477 being pushed by Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas, proposes the authentic development program for the national rice industry, involving the three-year allocation of P495 billion, which includes P185 billion for its core programs and P310 billion for the procurement program of the NFA.
Bantay Bigas blamed the law for the rice farmers' losses, as exposed by government data:
* 2018 value of production of palay at P385 billion for the volume of production of a little more than 19 million metric tons, or P20.19 per kilogram average value or farm gate price;
* 2019 value of production of palay at P305 billion for the volume of production of a little more than 18.8 million metric tons, or P16.22 per kilogram or decline of about P4;
* 2019 volume of production of palay if previous value per kilogram was maintained, value would have been P380 billion, thus, potential losses due to depressed farm gate prices would be at P74.8 billion.
"We have been warning against this even before the enactment of the law. We call on all stakeholders to join the call of repealing the law," said Cathy Estavillo, spokesperson of Bantay Bigas and secretary-general of Amihan.
Bantay Bigas led the 50,000-signature petition to repeal RA 11203 and it is aiming another batch of 100,000 signatures by March.
Estavillo said the public welcomed the petition drive as opposition to the law and liberalization policies for the rice sector.
"We urge the Filipino people to rise up against rice liberalization, junk the law and uphold the national rice industry, as legacy of the people's struggle to the next generation Filipinos," the groups said.