THE rice watch group Bantay Bigas and the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women led the petition signing Thursday, October 1, 2020, at the Litex Public Market on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City to gather the public’s support in demanding the repeal of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law as palay farmgate prices continue to drop ranging from P10-14 per kilo in rice-producing provinces across the country.
“The damage of the Rice Liberalization Law to our farmers’ livelihood, the local rice industry and the country’s food self-sufficiency and security has been very clear since its implementation more than a year ago. Farmers have already been suffering from bankruptcy and indebtedness for two to three harvest seasons due to the drop in palay farmgate price," Amihan secretary-general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.
"RLL has also failed to lower the retail price of commercial rice while the cheaper NFA rice sold at P27 and P32 per kilo has long been absent in public markets,” she added.
Estavillo said the P10-billion RCEF cannot offset the P75-80 billion lost by farmers or P28-30,000 for every rice farmer on the law’s first year of implementation alone.
“Our lawmakers and the Duterte government should heed the farmers’ call and take immediate action. Hindi makatarungan na paulit-ulit na lang kada anihan na nagmamakaawa ang mga magsasaka para sa tulong at suporta mula sa gobyerno,” Estavillo said.
Bantay Bigas and Amihan reiterated its call for a P75-billion NFA budget to expand its palay procurement to cover at least 20 percent or 3,762,965 million metric tons of palay of the local rice production for at least P20 per kilo.
The groups earlier said NFA’s control on 20 percent of local production would be enough to influence palay farmgate prices and give enough earnings for farmers, as well as help regulate rice prices.
The groups are also pushing for more lenient procurement requirements and the availability of NFA buying and rolling stations in rice farming communities to accommodate more rice farmers.
“Sa tindi ng pinsala ng RLL sa kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka na pinalala pa ng pandemya, dapat magbigay ng cash assistance at production subsidy para makaagapay sa krisis na nararanasan ng mga magsasaka,” Estavillo said.
“We reiterate our demand to review and repeal the RA 11203 to prevent further damage to the local rice industry. Hangga’t nananatili ang RLL bilang batas at hindi tinutugunan ang mga problema para tunay na pag-unlad ng lokal na industriya ng bigas para sa pagtitiyak ng sapat, ligtas at abot-kayang presyo ng bigas, magiging paulit-ulit lamang itong problema sa bagsak na presyo ng palay at pagkalugi ng mga magsasaka," she said.
"We urge the public to stand with our farmers, sign the petition and support our calls to defend our local rice industry and food self-sufficiency and security,” Estavillo added.
Bantay Bigas submitted 50,000 signatures to Congress and Senate in September and November 2019, calling for the repeal of the Rice Liberalization Law. Signatures were gathered from farmers, workers, urban poor, women, youth, food security advocates and other sectors from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The groups are pushing for the enactment of the House Bill (HB) 477 or Rice Industry Development Act and HB 239 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed by the Makabayan bloc. Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas has also filed HB 476 seeking the repeal of RA 11203.
Various organizations, including Anakpawis, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Pamalakaya and Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, joined the petition signing. (SunStar Pampanga)