It’s been almost a year after President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law (RLL), farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) points out the colossal scale of its damage in Philippine agriculture. KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos asserts that “through rice liberalization, the Duterte regime has unleashed a gigantic man-made disaster directed against poor Filipino rice farmers.”
Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Philippine Rice Research Institute released last November 2019 a policy paper which explained that the total income losses of rice farmers nationwide due to the RLL ranged from P61.77 billion to P129.54 billion. The Federation of Free Farmers also said last December 2019 that losses can actually reach P140 billion. “These estimates dwarf in comparison the already catastrophic P3.06 billion damage in agriculture done by the recent Taal eruption. RLL’s damage is equivalent to up to 46 Taal eruptions,” Ramos comments. The peasant leader pleads that just because the rice farmers’ suffering is less visible and more protracted does not mean it can be paid less attention and urgency.
KMP also points out that when evenly distributed among the 2.1 million employed in the rice industry, RLL’s damage is equivalent to upto P66,667 income loss each. The group has declared on Monday that the Duterte administration’s legacy in agriculture is the wreckage of Philippine rice industry.
Ramos insists that “clearly, the P10 billion RCEF (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) is too minuscule an amount to offset RLL’s damage, assuming that small rice farmers even actually access it.” RCEF composed most of DA’s budget increase. The agriculture department’s 3.5% share in the 2020 national budget however is the lowest since President Gloria Arroyo when it reached 4.7 percent.
“RLL’s continuing spewing of bankruptcy and hunger must be stopped for the sake of millions of rice farmers and their direct dependents, thousands of small rice traders, and about a hundred million rice consumers all over the country. A year has been more than enough. Instead, we must cherish our local rice farmers and our domestic rice production by implementing genuine agrarian reform and rural development,” Ramos concludes.
KMP will join the Feb. 14 Rise for Rise nationally-coordinated protest against RA 11203 and the liberalization of agriculture. #
(Featured image from Bantay Bigas)