Luzon farmers rally to oppose rice tariffication
In a dramatic move dubbed “Araw ng Pagluluksa ng mga Magsasaka”, farmers from regions 1 to 5 in Luzon troop to Malacanang today to air their appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the passage of the rice tariffication law, which was recently ratified and endorsed for his signature by the bicameral conference committee of Congress.
The group will be led by Eugene Ramirez, chairman of the Regional Farmers Action Council of Central Luzon; Rustica D. Panganiban, chairperson of the Provincial Farmers Action Council of Occidental Mindoro and spokesperson of the Rice Farmers ng Timog Katagalugan; Edwin Paraluman, chairman of the Philippine Farmers Advisory Board and farmer representative at the NFA Council.
Also joining them are William Saratao, chairman of the Regional Farmers Action Council in region 12 and Silvestre Bonto, President of the National Confederation of Irrigators Association.
During the bicameral conference committee meeting on November 22, both Houses of Congress agreed to retain most of the provisions of Senate Bill 1998 that virtually decapitated the vital stabilization and regulatory functions of the government’s food security agency, the National Food Authority (NFA).
The bill was ratified by both Houses on November 28 and endorsed to the President for his signature.
Under the draft law, the NFA shall no longer provide price support to farmers as its function had been limited to buffer stocking for emergencies and disaster relief programs.
For this purpose, the NFA would need only about a million bags of rice or 50,000 metric tons versus the actual annual rice production of about 12 million MT.
“What will happen to our palay harvest? If rice importation is open to anybody with capital, who will still go to the countryside to buy palay, store, mill and sell them to consumers at an affordable price?” the farmers lamented.
The farmers fear that this move will spell doom to the local rice industry and death for many of them who are totally dependent on their hand-to-mouth farming industry.
In an open letter to the President, the grains industry stakeholders, including the farmers, said: “We oppose the enactment of the rice tariffication law because of its anti-people provisions”.
Specifically, they said the removal of the stabilization and regulatory functions of the NFA will result to rice price and supply to manipulation by the private sector and expose the rice industry to abuses of unscrupulous grains businessmen.
The group also fears that the absence of government control will lead to a more powerful rice cartel in the country.
“It will be most tragic for the Filipinos if the trade of their staple food is also privatized,” the farmers further said.