MANILA — Farmers have expressed their support for Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s call to review the Rice Tariffication Law and to immediately address their concerns regarding the influx of imports that displace local rice.
Enriquito Duran, a farmer leader of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) from Kabacan, North Cotabato, said farmgate palay (unhusked rice) prices have dropped from P20 last year to P14 with the deluge of rice imports following the passage of the controversial law early this year.
“Mabuti pa si Senator Kiko, nararamdaman niya ang hirap naming magsasaka at humahanap siya ng solusyon. Yong ibang senador, ang bilis nilang makalimot sa kanilang mga pangako,” said Duran after listening to Pangilinan’s privilege speech Tuesday calling for an inquiry on the devastating effects of Republic Act 11203 on rice farmers.
“With the influx of rice imports, mas lumala ang kalagayan nila. Hindi na lalo mabayaran ang utang, lalong nababaon sa utang,” said Pangilinan in his privilege speech. “They need for us to act NOW.”
Raul Montemayor, FFF national manager, agreed with Pangilinan’s call. “We need to address the root cause of the problem, which is the uncontrolled inflow of imports that has displaced local rice.”
“Unless government acts now, palay prices will go down even further during the coming harvest season. Millions of farmers all over the country are suffering and will suffer even more,” added Montemayor.
Farmers to sell lands?
After watching the Facebook Live video of Senator Pangilinan’s privilege speech, many said in the comments section that farmers may sell their lands and stop farming if the drop in palay prices continues.
“Bakit magtatanim kung malulugi pa? Maibenta na lang para magawang subdivision,” said Willie Atienza in a Facebook comment.
“Senator Pangilinan, good day po, yan po talaga ang nangyayari dito sa bayan natin. Binabagsak po ang paghahanap-buhay ng mga magsasaka at mas binubuhay ang ibang bansa sa pag-import,” said Rebecca Bilog.
“Sir Kiko sana po maibalik yung dating presyo ng palay,” said Lester Cuaresma.
(Facebook comments from: https://www.facebook.com/48622973199/posts/10157598855538200 )
Rice tariffication-related FB posts of Sen. Pangilinan reached 478,733 people, had 1,374 comments, and were shared 3,481 times, as of 17 August 2019.)
Pangilinan in his speech cautioned the public about the impact of local farmers quitting agriculture.
“Kapag hindi na sila magtatanim, bababa ang rice-sufficiency level natin. Dahil dito, lalong lalaki ang demand natin for imported rice,” said Pangilinan. “How can we have food security when we are dependent on food imports?”
The former presidential adviser on food and agriculture proposed several urgent interventions to help farmers now. These solutions include:
1. use of the agriculture special safeguards under Republic Act 8800 triggered by a volume or price threshold of imports;
2. a recourse to the general safeguards and anti-dumping duties;
3. for the DA to put in place monitoring and possible imposition of a suggested retail price for rice;
4. for the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate existing rice importers for exploitative acts;
5. to hasten the Survival and Recovery Loan (SURE) Assistance of P25,000 loan with zero interest for rice farmers; and
6. for DSWD’s cash-for-work program to provide emergency employment for distressed farmers.
Pangilinan added that “while we propose stop-gap measures, the long-term strategic interventions should be on the production side.”
“Dapat ang response ng gobyerno ay dun kung saan nag-uugat ang problema, sa production.”
Pangilinan is the primary and author of the recently signed RA 11321 or the Sagip Saka Act, which seeks to improve the income of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.
Other food- and environment-related measures he filed for the 18th Congress includes: Senate Bills 31 on Coco Levy Trust Fund, 32 on creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 33 on Postharvest Facilities, 34 on Organic Agriculture, 35 on Expanded Crop Insurance,
36 on Rainwater Management, 40 on Single-use Plastic Regulation, 256 on Agricultural Land Conversion Ban, 257 on Urban Agriculture, 263 on Solid Waste Importation Ban, 423 on Food Waste Reduction, 638 on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Incentives, and 639 on National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation.