Local group to government: Junk Rice Tarrification Law

Local group to government: Junk Rice Tarrification Law
SunStar File

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

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Central Visayas chairman Jaime Paglinawan said in a statement on Friday, May 10, 2024, that the passing of Republic Act 11203 of 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 increase in the prices of rice and mitigate the extreme poverty faced by the 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 billion to P15 billion, further extending the allocation of the fund until 2030,” Paglinawan said in a statement.

He added that the RTL was supposed to mitigate the increase in rice prices, but it continues 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," Paglinawan said.

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

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

Paglinawan said the 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 must develop the local rice production of farmers through (a) a fair subsidy from the government in the modernization of agricultural tools, (b) a subsidy for fertilizer and seedlings, (c) eradicate land monopolization of land through agrarian reform, (d) and implement 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,” Paglinawan said.

He added that if there is a need for importation of rice from foreign countries, it must also be done in a government-to-government transaction.

On Monday, May 6, Marcos has vowed to certify as urgent the proposed amendments to RTL to lower rice prices in the country.

Marcos said the traders competed in selling the rice, resulting in a price increase, of which the government has no control, therefore if Congress approves the amendment, NFA will be able to sell rice in the markets.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who pushed for the amendment, said that it will bring down rice prices by P10 to P15 or close to the P30 per kilogram if approved. (EHP)

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