Save farmers, buy local rice: Kiko

MANILA – Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Thursday urged the public to buy local rice to save the farmers reeling from extremely low buying prices of palay — now pegged at only P7 per kilo in Central Luzon, almost half of the production cost of P12 per kilo.

“Isang paraan upang matulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka ay suportahan at bilhin natin ang bigas nila. Buy local, lalo na ngayong panahon ng ani (One way for us to help our farmers is to support them and buy their rice. Buy local, especially during this harvest time),” Pangilinan said.

“Hanapin sa mga suki ang local rice dahil alam natin na punong-puno ang merkado ng imported rice (Ask your preferred store for local rice because we know that the market is flooded with imported rice),” he added.

The Senate convened on August 29 and September 3 to discuss the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law where farmers groups revealed that the buying prices of palay are now as low as at P7-P8 per kilo in Tarlac, P8 per kilo in Nueva Ecija, and P8-P10 per kilo in Zamboanga Sibugay, among others.

“Nalulugi ang ating mga magsasaka nang halos P60 bilyon dulot ng epekto ng Rice Tariffication Law. Tatlong piso kada isang kilo ng palay ang kanilang nawalang kita kumpara sa 2018,” Pangilinan said.

About 200,000 rice farmers have reportedly stopped cultivating their land in fear of incurring a deficit and losing money.

“Kailangang mabigyan ng direktang access ang mga magsasaka sa mga mamimili dahil isa sa mga nagpapahirap sa kanila ang mga middlemen na iniipit ang presyo ng bigas. Iyan ang layon ng ating Sagip Saka Act na naisabatas noong Abril. Mabibigyan na ang mga accredited farm enterprises ng direktang access sa merkado (Farmers should have direct access to the consumers because middlemen are among those who cause their suffering constricting rice prices. That is the aim of our Sagip Saka Act that was enacted in April. Accredited farm enterprises will have direct access to the market),” Pangilinan said.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Wednesday announced that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Sagip Saka Act of 2019 will be released within the week. The law allows government to buy agricultural produce directly from farm enterprises, exempted from the Procurement Act.

“Hindi lamang iyan ang mga hakbang upang tulungan ang ating mga magsasaka. Meron ding inisyatibo ang ilan sa ating mga kababayan at mga start-ups kagaya ngBukid Fresh, Session Groceries, Cropital, at marami pang iba na nagsisilbing tulay upang direktang makabili ang ating mga mamamayan mula sa mga magsasaka. Nagsisimula kaming mag-uusap-usap kung paano tayo magtutulungan upang sagipin ang ating mga magsasaka (That is not the only way we can help our farmers. Initiatives from fellow Filipinos and start-ups like Bukid Fresh, Session Groceries, Cropital, and many others that bridge direct buyers and farmers. We will start talking about how we can help to save our farmers),” Pangilinan said.

Sagip Saka Act of 2019 also aims to provide certain tax incentives to corporations that will buy directly from accredited farm enterprises.

Pangilinan has delivered a privilege speech stressing the sad plight of Filipino rice farmers and proposed several legislative fixes, including the raising of the current 35-percent tariff, the imposition of additional duties, direct cash assistance, and cash-for-work programs of government.