Farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) lambasts Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar’s comments against the claim that farmers lost Php68 billion during the Rice Liberalization Law’s (RLL) first year of implementation. “Secretary Dar is so out of touch with reality. He must get out of his air conditioned office to reach out to millions of farmers whose livelihoods were damaged by the RLL. The estimated Php68-billion worth of losses does not even take into full account the social impact of hunger, bankruptcy, indebtedness, malnutrition, insecurity, and anxiety faced by millions of rice farmers nationwide, made worse by RLL. The Ph68-billion describes but a fraction of the damage wrought by RLL upon farmers,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos explains.
A study released last month by Federation of Free Farmers estimated that rice farmers incurred P68-billion worth of losses due to RLL by comparing the lower prices of palay before and after its implementation.
“We remind the agriculture secretary that the majority of our rice farmers are landless and poor. Many face indebtedness due to increasingly unreliable harvests. We are not like big entrepreneurs in the private sector who are only concerned with balances between expenses and incomes,” Ramos laments.
The peasant leader adds that “the government’s so-called mitigating programs are grossly insufficient in reach and content. Even if we deduct Dar’s much-touted reduction of rice prices, loan program, cash assistance, and competitiveness fund, assuming that all these wholly benefited rice farmers, Php18-billion worth of losses remain.” The DA secretary mentioned yesterday DA’s Php2.5 billion Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) aid, Php3 billion direct cash assistance, and the Php10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as proof that rice farmers did not suffer P68 billion worth of losses.
Ramos points out that “the least Dar can do is stop daydreaming and recognize the reality of RLL’s grave effects in the domestic rice industry and agriculture in general. If he fails to do even this basic recognition of facts, how more can farmers trust his leadership in supposedly improving our local agriculture?”
“We reiterate our basic position against rice liberalization. This law must be immediately junked. In its place, the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) and Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) must be enacted. No amount of agricultural liberalization and loan programs can replace self reliance, genuine agrarian reform, and rural development as the path to developing domestic agriculture and setting up the foundations for an industrialized national economy,” Ramos ends. #