Farmers and farm workers nationwide urged senatorial candidates to repeal the Rice Import Liberalization Law warning that it will kill the rice industry.
“Our stand is for the abrogation of R.A. 11203 or the Rice Import Liberalization Law as it is the only way to save rice production and the Philippine rice industry—inarguably, and according to the United Nations itself, the most vital economic activity in a developing country like ours,” the Philippine Farmers Advisory Board (PFAB) said in an open letter signed on 6 March 2019.
“R.A. 11203 Law discriminates against rice farmers and favors vested interests of profiteering groups, an affront to the Constitutional provision on the equal protection of law.
The law itself stands to gradually kill the rice industry, literally and figuratively, that it ensures the elimination of around 50 million rice-farming related jobs and the displacement of millions of rural families dependent on the industry,” read the open letter.
PFAB groups 16 Regional Farmers’ Action Councils (RFAC), which is composed of farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, and four national farmer’s federations namely the National Confederation of Irrigators’ Associations of the Philippines (NCIA), Federation of Agricultural and Industrial Toiling Hands (FAITH), Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives Inc. (FFFCI) and Mag-uuma, Magbabaul, Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (P4PM).
“While awaiting the people’s will through the ballots on May 13, we implore on your sense of patriotism, not only as candidates, but as freedom-loving Filipinos, as well, to stand up for the local rice-farming sector. We plead that you may have the fortitude to rally behind the efforts to save the Philippine rice industry,” said PFAB.
“It is our fervent hope that in your pro-people legislative program, you will put to utmost priority the welfare of the rice farmers, farm workers and millions of their family members, that when you become Senators of the Republic, we will become not only your mere constituents but collaborators in making life better for the greater majority of Filipinos,” it added.
The open letter was signed by representatives of RFAC in Region I to XII, National Capital Region, Caraga and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao plus FAITH, FFFCI, NCIA and P4PM.
The group called R.A. 11203 the Anti Rice Farmers Liberalization Law claiming it is being unjust, highly irregular and extraordinarily insensitive to the plight of rice farmers, who, since time immemorial, dedicated their lives in producing food for the nation.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed RA 11203 on 14 February and it took effect on 5 March.
The law applies 35 percent tariff on rice imported from ASEAN countries, 40 percent if within the minimum access volume of 350,000 metric tons for imports coming from countries outside ASEAN; and 180 percent if above the MAV and coming from a non-Asean country.
The removal of the rice import quota or so-called quantitative restrictions are seen to lower the prices of rice by P2 to P7 per kilo and bring down inflation rate by 0.6 percentage point this year.