TWO organizations have renewed their call for the government to boost local rice production.

This came after the United States Department of Agriculture reportedly said that the Philippines might import 3.1 million metric tons of rice for years 2022 and 2023.

The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and Bantay Bigas rice watch at the same asked President Marcos, Jr. to seriously carry out measures to boost local productivity instead of relying on the band-aid solution of importation.

The two groups claimed that the president should lay down concrete plans right now during the planting season to produce better yield in September to October this year.

"Hanggang ngayon wala pa tayong naririnig na malinaw na mga hakbang para i-secure ang production ng bigas sa bansa. Habang ang Rice Liberalization Law, na itinulak ng mga mismong alyado ni Marcos ay sigurado na namang magpapabagsak sa presyo ng palay sa anihan," said Cathy Estavillo, secretary general of Amihan and spokesperson of Bantay Bigas.

The groups blamed Republic Act 11203 Rice Liberalization Law for the multi-billion peso losses of rice farmers in the country, which they estimated to be at P165 billion from 2019 to 2020.

They claimed it was due to depressed average farmgate prices from the previous P20 to P15 per kilo.

Estavillo said rice farmers, poor consumers and other stakeholders have opposed the enactment of the law and continued to demand its repeal with their petition in 2020, which garnered at least 80,000 signatures.

The group also called for the enactment of the present House Bill 405 Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) bill, which was originally filed by representatives of Anakpawis Party-list.

The groups stressed that provisions of the RIDA bill seriously addressed the hounding issues in the country's rice production, with the allotment of P495 billion for its “Three-Year Implementation Plan.”

The bill will generally prohibit importation of rice, and would only allow so under a declaration of a national rice crisis.

"Hindi dapat tuluy-tuloy na pahirapan ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at konsyumer batay sa pag-asa ng gobyerno sa importasyon. Dapat ring ipawalambisa ni Marcos Jr. ang Executive Order 135 na nagbaba ng tariff sa imported rice, bilang proteksyon sa mga magsasakang Pilipino," Estabillo said.

"Ang panawagan namin ay palakasin ang lokal na produksyon at hindi importasyon, para makamit ang totoong national food security na nakabatay sa self-sufficiency at self-reliance, na sa aktwal ito ang panawagan naming itaas ang presyo ng palay sa P20 kada kilo, at ibaba ang presyo ng bigas sa P25 kada kilo, para sa interes ng mga maralitang konsyumer," she added.