Cebu-based group: Junk Rice Tariffication Law

Cebu Provine map
Cebu Provine map

A CEBU-BASED progressive group urged the National Government to junk the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and not amend it as it has made the country reliant on importation instead of boosting local production.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) 7 chairman Jaime Paglinawan, in a statement on Friday, May 10, 2024, said the passing of Republic Act 11203 in 2019 has devastated the local rice production through “excessive” rice importation.

As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made urgent the proposed amendments on the RTL, Paglinawan said that is not a solution to resolve the continuous rise in the price of rice and mitigate the extreme poverty faced by farmers.

“The Marcos Jr. administration wants to amend the Rice Tarrification Law through Congress as a remedy and for the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund to remain past its expiry next year as well as to increase its budget from P10 to P15 billion, further extending the allocation of the fund until 2030,” Paglinawan said in a statement.

He said the RTL was supposed to mitigate the increase in rice prices, however, prices continue to soar even five years after the implementation.

Under the law, the National Food Authority (NFA) was limited to only purchasing palay or unmilled rice from local farmers at a low capacity.

On the proposed amendments, the NFA will be authorized to facilitate imports or purchase imported rice, Paglinawan said.

“The meager budget allocated to the NFA for the purchase of products from local rice farmers (302,651 metric tons out of 19.76 million metric tons) is sorely not enough to develop the capacity of our local production,” he said.

He said the majority of local farmers’ produce went to the traders who purchased it at a cheaper price.

It was detrimental to local farmers, as traders hoard the rice palay to manipulate and artificially lower the market supply amidst the high demand that will result in inflationary prices of milled rice, he said.

Meanwhile, Paglinawan said rice production in the country has reached 20.06 million metric tons.

“This amount can be further improved to ensure a steady supply requirement of 16 million metric tons of rice in a year,” he said.

Instead of amending the RTL, Paglinawan said the Marcos administration has to develop the local rice production through (a) a fair subsidy from the government in the modernization of agricultural tools, (b) a subsidy for fertilizer and seedlings, (c) the eradication of land monopolization of land through agrarian reform, (d) and the implementation of a free, fair, just and equitable distribution of land to till.

“The government must provide a sufficient budget to the NFA for them to fairly purchase the products of our farmers which includes palay. By doing so, the government can dismantle the control of some rice traders and cartels preventing them from manipulating the market which leads to exorbitant prices of rice,” he said.

He also said that any rice importation must be conducted through a government-to-government transaction.

Last Monday, May 6, Marcos certified urgent the proposed amendments to RTL in an effort to lower rice prices in the country.

Marcos said traders have been competing to sell rice, which the government has no control. If Congress approves the amendment, the NFA will be able to sell rice in the markets, he said.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who pushed for the amendment, said the move will bring down rice prices by P10 to P15 or close to P30 per kilo if approved. / EHP

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