[Fight vs. rice liberalization a life and death matter] Farmers to govt: Reverse liberalization policy to prevent demise of local rice industry

Peasant groups, consumers, and land reform advocates trooped to  the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City and Mendiola in Manila today to demand the scrapping of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law which President Duterte signed a year ago today. “Last year, we vowed to face head on the rice liberalization policy of the Duterte administration. We have mustered mass actions and petition RA 11203 that was proven to be a burden to farmers, consumers, and the rice-consuming Filipino population,” KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis President Rafael Mariano says.

“A reversal of the rice liberalization law is imperative to stop the destruction of the domestic rice industry and agriculture. Farmers have suffered enough the liberalization and importation policies which only favored big rice traders and the invisible rice cartel,” according to Mariano. “The fight to stop rice liberalization is a matter of life and death for Filipino farmers.”

KMP said Filipinos must unite and stand with farmers to save the rice industry. “Our future and our national food security would be at stake if we will continue to allow unlimited rice importation.”

The Philippines is expected to remain as the world’s top rice importer this year, according to estimates by the USDA. In 2019, the country imported a record high 2.9 million metric tons (MTT) and in the past three years, rice imports have almost quadrupled, with the import volume equivalent to about seven percent of total global rice imports.

“It is outraging that the Philippines, a predominantly agricultural country, is now among the world’s top rice importers. This is Duterte’s legacy — the destruction of the local rice industry and the bankruptcy of Filipino rice farmers and their families,” says Mariano, also a former secretary of the agrarian reform department.

The group insists that the government must heed the strong public clamor for the review and scrapping of RA 11203 and its stead, Congress must approve House Bill 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act which outlines the genuine development of our domestic rice industry towards self-reliance. The proposed RIDA bill proposes important state policies which will address the problem of rice importation, low productivity of rice, and the situation of rice farmers all over the country.  Among the main objectives of RIDA is to ensure rice self-sufficiency.

We reiterate our appeal to the government to consider the following overall demands of rice farmers: 1. Stop the unlimited importation policy; 2. Attain rice self-sufficiency; 3. Make rice and grains affordable to all; 4. Break the monopoly of private traders in the rice industry; 5. Resolve the poverty of rice farmers; 6. Break away from the corporate control of Philippine agriculture; 7. Take the local agriculture out of the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture; 8. Genuinely develop the local rice industry; 9. Implement genuine agrarian reform and; 10. Realize rural industrialization. ###

Reference: Rafael Mariano, 0998-2898052

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