Privilege Speech of Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on the State of Rice Farmers

Good afternoon.

“Worse than the Japanese occupation”. This was how a 92-year-old farmer described the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law. She knows whereof she speaks because she was a Huk warrior at the bloody retaking of the old Pampanga Sugar Mill garrison from the Japanese.

Aside from quoting his mother in his August 7, 2019 column at the Manila Times, Marlen Ronquillo said the small rice farmer in Central Luzon and much of the country is “dead man walking”. 

In December, at the height of all the merry-making and the flood of imported rice, a 57-year-old rice farmer from the country’s Rice Granary is believed to have committed suicide out of the desperation that Ronquillo described.

Mahirap ang buhay, pero higit na mahirap para sa magsasakang Pilipino.

It has been over a year since the Rice Tariffication Act was signed into law last February 14, 2019. 

From the government’s assessment of its implementation of the law, matters more or less are on track:

  • The law has put in place the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to cushion its dire impact to farmers.
  • The DA has assured that four RCEF major components are being implemented — providing farm machinery, quality seeds, credit, package of technology and training — backed up by assured funding of 10 billion yearly for the next six years.
  • According to the department, as of this January, the Philippine Rice Research Institute has obligated a total of 2.56 billion for seeds, and distributed 552.6 million worth to thousands of farmers in 557 out of 798 municipalities nationwide.
  • The grant of 3 billion pesos worth of various farm machineries starting the first semester of 2020 was also pledged.
  • For the training and extension component, a total of 878 million pesos has been allocated, of which, 284.4 million pesos have been disbursed for training, communication materials, accreditation programs, and scholarships.
  • For credit, the Land Bank has disbursed a total of 358.2 million pesos, and the DBP has released 283.5 million pesos to hundreds of accredited farmers and farmers’ cooperatives nationwide.

In short, over the next six years, government support for rice farmers, if implemented effectively, would be about 60 billion pesos.

Subalit ayon sa isang pag-aaral ng Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), 68.18 billion pesos ang nawala sa mga magpapalay nitong nakaraang taon.

So ang nakalaan para sa magpapalay natin na 60 billion pesos sa loob ng anim na taon, na-wipe out na sa kita ng ating mga magsasaka sa isang taon. May kulang pang eight billion pesos.

At hindi match ang dapat na pakinabang sa mga consumer ng nasabing batas.

According to the FFF study, 34.16 billion pesos lang ang natipid o naging ganansya ng mga consumers o bumibili ng bigas sa mas murang halaga.

Yan po ang big picture.

Pero mas mahalaga, ano ang sinasabi ng ating mga magpapalay? Kumusta na po sila?

Marami ang sumusulat sa amin: Di na raw sila magtatanim. O mag-ca-cash crop na lang daw sila. Merong nag-construction worker na. Ang asawang babae nung isang magpapalay, namasukan nang kasambahay dito sa Maynila.

Sabi ng mga sumulat sa aming tanggapan mula pa noong isang taon:

  • Iyong tatay ko nagmumukha ng putik kakasaka, tas pag bentahan lugi lang nararanasan. Renta sa lupa, inutang para makatanim. Hirap, gastos, at pagod niya walang napala. Dahil sa batas, mababa na lang nila naiibenta ang tanim nila.
  • Mahirap na magsasaka lalo pang pinahihirapan. Binhi, mahal. Krudo, mahal. Abono, mahal. Insecticide, mahal. Upa sa tanim, mahal. Tapos bibilhin nila palay na napakamura. Paano makakabayad sa inutang na puhunan? Patay ang magsasaka.
  • Anihan na pero tila wala pa ring aksyong ginagawa ang gobyerno. Wala pa ring pagbabago sa presyo ng palay. Dito sa Pampanga, nine pesos per kilo. Maawa po kayo sa mga magsasaka. Pinapatay po ninyo kami.

    Ito po ay isinulat sa atin.
  • Sa ibang bansa nga, kapag magsasaka, mayaman. Baligtad sa Pinas…14-18 presyo ng palay natin maayos na e, pero ngayon 7 ang presyo ng palay. Masyado naman kinakawawa ang magsasaka.

This farmers’ crisis may soon become a food crisis, lalung-lalo na at anihan na ng dry season crop at wala pang plano paano lagyang preno ang pagbagsak ng kita ng mga magsasaka ngayong Marso at Abril.

We support the resolution filed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, Senate Resolution 332, pushing for an inquiry on the implementation of the RCEF.

Beyond that, this representation would also like to know:

Number 1. Ano ang report sa 5,000-peso cash compensation na pinaglaban natin dito sa senado bago matapos ang 2019 para sa mga naapektuhang magpapalay? Ilan ang nakatanggap? Ano ang feedback? Sapat ba raw ito? Kasi nga, ang mga magsasakang nakausap natin sa Nueva Ecija, hindi nakatanggap nito. Marami raw requirements. Paano sinosolusyunan ang ganitong problema?

For the Departments of Agriculture and Finance, and other relevant agencies, how many farmers have benefitted from the RCEF? How many have they gained from this fund? What have they received in assistance from RCEF, and what is the impact on them?

Gusto rin nating malaman: How much has the government gained from the import tariffs? How are these being spent? What are the projected earnings in the coming years and how will these benefit the farmers and the sector as a whole? We need to see if the figures on paper match harsh realities being experienced by our farmers on the ground.

Sapat nga ba ang 10 bilyon kada isang taon?

Number 2. Speaking of farmers on the ground, ilan ang nag-shift na ng crops? Ilan ang hindi na nagtanim? The numbers might magnify our sufficiency level. Speaking of sufficiency, ano ang rice sufficiency level natin ngayon? Noong panahon ko as Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, rice sufficiency was at 91.95 percent, fluctuating until, according to government data, 86.17 percent in 2018. Ano na ang sufficiency rate ngayon?

Number 3. Sa NFA, na inutusang mamili ng local rice, gaano karami ang nabili? Ilan ang nabilhang magpapalay? Magkano? Taga saan ang mga ito? NFA should be proactive in procuring from local rice farmers, at pumunta sa sulok-sulok ng bansa. Hanapin ang mga palay ng mga farmers natin na karamihan ay nalalayuan at walang transport, o kaya ay di sigurado na may aabutang NFA personnel na bibili ng kanilang produkto.

Number 4. For the Bureau of Customs, ano ang rice smuggling situation? Ilan ang nahuli sa undervaluation? Meron ba? Remember, we asked that the government look into reports of undervaluation? Kasi lalung apektado presyo ng palay with the influx of smuggled rice. May mga nahuli ba?

Number 5. Naniniwala tayong nais ding malaman ni Senator Villar: Ano ang kalagayan ng RCEF ngayon? According to a recent news article citing the DoF, BoC collections from duties on rice imports have dropped to 1.71 billion pesos from January 1 to February 14 this year from 2.22 billion in the same period last year. A 23.1-percent dive.

If this continues, this will imperil the RCEF. Are imports being undervalued or amounts underreported? Is technical smuggling the culprit?

Non-government organization Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) earlier rang the alarm bells that RCEF was not enough to cater to the local farmers. IRDF executive director Arze Glipo said that if the fund were divided equally among farmers, they will only receive financial assistance of 4,000 pesos each, far from their losses reaching as high as 30,000 pesos.

Mahalagang malaman lahat nang ito dahil ang sunod-sunod na lugi ng ating mga magsasaka ay nakakaapekto na sa kapasidad nila na magsaka pang muli.

Kapag bumaba ang kapasidad ng kanilang pagsasaka, malalagay rin sa alanganin ang kapasidad nating pakainin ang ating bansa, o ang ating food security, lalo na’t nagsasabi na rin ang Vietnam at Thailand na bababa ang kanilang rice production dahil sa tagtuyot. Isang NASA technology ang nagpakita na may tagtuyot sa dalawang bansang pinag-aangkatan natin ng bigas. Based on the article, Thailand is facing the worst drought in the last 40 years.

Of the 3 million metric tons of rice imported by the Philippines last year, more than 2.1 million metric tons came from Vietnam.

As the world’s biggest importer of rice in 2019, where will this leave the Philippines? Paano kung wala na tayong ma-import na bigas? Paano kung hindi na magbebenta ang Thailand at Vietnam dahil bagsak ang kanilang supply?

Pag nangyari yan, tataas ang presyo ng inaangkat na bigas. Gutom ang kapalit ng mataas na presyo ng bigas.

Kung matatandaan, noong 2008 world financial crisis, nagkaroon din ng global rice crisis. Between January and May 2008, the international trading price of rice jumped dramatically, quadrupling, from 300 US dollars per metric ton to 1,200 US dollars per metric ton, in just four months. And the spike in rice prices was not due to crop failure or a particularly tight global rice supply situation. That time, the immediate causes of the rise in rice prices: trade restrictions by major suppliers, panic buying by several large importers, a weak dollar, and record spike in oil prices.

This time, a triple whammy may cause another rice crisis: the Rice Tariffication Law’s lacklustre implementation; terrible drought now being felt by our rice exporters in Thailand and Vietnam; and the still undetermined and uncalculated effects of the coronavirus outbreak, particularly on China, also a rice-producing and rice-consuming country. As well as the impact on prices of goods.

This means that the dire impact of the lackluster implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law has not only cast its gloom on the country’s farmers, but is threatening consumers as well.

The scenario is a portent that the government should be prepared.

Ano ang plano ng gobyerno? Alam naman natin na may lead time, both in ordering for more imports and more importantly in planting of rice.

Ang ating mungkahi:

1. Create an inter-agency task force on rice security composed of the DA, DBM, DoF and the DTI to oversee the swift implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law. Get this task force to review the implementation of the law and its effects on the rice industry, on the farmers and farm workers, and even the NFA employees, and submit its findings immediately to the Senate.

2. Have DoF, PNP, and NBI deputize to go after technical smugglers in the same way they have done after tax evaders. Monitor possible collusion between the BoC and some rice traders in the technical smuggling and undervaluation of rice imports. File non-bailable charges of economic sabotage and jail the smugglers. Get the Philippine Competition Commission to go after profiteers and rice-price manipulators.

3. Ipatupad nang tama ang Rice Tariffication Law: Bigyan ng compensation ang mga natamaang magpapalay para makapagtanim silang muli. Speed up the NFA procurement of local rice. We reiterate our call for direct cash assistance for the farmers to be sourced from the RCEF or from a supplemental budget. The assistance should also benefit all affected by the brunt of the Rice Tariffication Law, lalong-lalo na dun sa mga nakikisaka lang, yung walang lupa, walang pera, yung walang-wala.

Sa dulo, ang layunin natin dapat ay food security at self-sufficiency. Sapat at tamang pagkain para sa lahat.

We have become more import-dependent and moved away from attaining self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

We are on our way to become rice beggars when we should have been reaping the fruits of a bountiful agriculture landscape.

This is an extremely serious concern that should be addressed urgently not just by the administration, but everyone who eats, as it will throw vulnerable sectors into a worse state of poverty and hunger.

Nasa isang emergency situation tayo at kailangan ng ating mga magsasaka ang maagap na tulong. Ang liit ng hinihingi ng mga magsasaka sa atin para mabuhay at huwag umalis sa kanilang mga bukid at magpapatuloy ng pagbubungkal ng lupa para tayong lahat ay makakain.

Moreover, feeling the pinch of the low rice prices, sabi pa sa isang news item, huminto na sa pag-aaral ang ilang mga anak ng magsasaka.

The havoc wreaked by the lackluster implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law is another factor that seems to be forcing people out of the agriculture sector or discouraging the young ones, the next generation, from staying in farming.

If the next generation no longer wishes to farm, then our future is in terrible straights. Our food security is undermined and compromised.

Babalik ako sa sinabi ni anak kong si Frankie noong nine years old po siya: “We must treat our farmers like our parents because they’re the ones who feed us.”

Dapat nating ituring ang mga magsasaka na parang ating mga magulang natin dahil sila ang nagpapakain sa atin.”

Maraming salamat po.