News Release: February 14, 2018, Bantay Bigas
The rice watch group Bantay Bigas and the National Federation of Peasant Women Amihan led a protest today, February 14 in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) central office in Quezon City to call for the immediate resolution of the artificial rice shortage.
The groups denounced the government’s failure to address the root cause of the ailing local rice industry using ‘hugot lines’ in time of DA’s “TienDA Bigas ng Masa Program” (Rice for the Masses).
Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said “The DA’s ‘Valentine treat’ is an unacceptable gimmick exploiting the artificial rice shortage for the government to gain positive image while taking the Filipinos’ attention away from the real problem. It’s like making the basic masses beg for crumbs despite knowing that it will not make the people full.”
Amihan chair Zen Soriano said that this publicity stunt by DA is pushing the people to accept the more expensive commercial rice priced at P38 per kilo instead of compelling the NFA to buy more local palay at sell it as cheaper rice. The Duterte government’s prioritization of importation over local palay procurement is a scheme to shape up the country and the people for the implementation of rice tariffication in place of quantitative restriction (QR) as a better option than attaining rice self-sufficiency.
“The rice consumers and farmers want the government to play an active role to immediately address the problem created by their own mess. If hoarding is a problem, they should strictly monitor, raid the warehouses and prosecute all those involved. If the prices are hiking, implement a price control. If farmers prefer private traders due to higher buying price, then they should raise their procurement price so they can increase their buffer stock and help the local farmers earn. If the local palay production is low, then address the issues of landlessness and provision of support services and subsidies including machineries and post-harvest facilities,” Estavillo said.
She added, “Food security is a state responsibility. It’s a matter of political will and a question of whose interests are they serving.”
The groups called on the rice consumers to unite and intensify campaigns against the attempts of the Duterte government to sacrifice the country’s food security and the livelihood of rice farmers, millers and retailers for the benefit of a few oligarchs and bureaucrat capitalists who are benefitting from these schemes.
“Now is the time for the Filipino people to move on from a ‘paasa’ government full of ‘gimik’. Let’s end the cycle of being ‘broke’,” Estavillo ended. ###