Farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today said William Dar must immediately resign as Agriculture Secretary and Senator Cynthia Villar should vacate chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food because of the severe effects of the rice liberalization law on farmers and the entire domestic rice industry, and their continuing denial of this damage. “Dar and Villar must resign. They have been persistently stubborn and callous in denying the damaging effects of RA 11203 despite grave alarms raised by farmers and rice stakeholders before, during, and after a year of its implementation. Whatever shenanigans these two bureaucrats perform, the truth remains — farmers despise the rice liberalization policies which have wrecked our local rice industry. Even President Duterte will be unable to look at farmers straight in the eye and declare that rice liberalization has improved our lives,” Rafael Mariano of KMP and Anakpawis Partylist explains.
“Secretary Dar is so out of touch from the actual situation and reality of Filipino farmers. He doesn’t deserve to remain as the agriculture secretary,” Mariano adds.
The former agrarian reform secretary also noted that only Dar and Villar are the ones celebrating the first year of the Rice Liberalization Law. “They see rice liberalization as their personal achievement and victory. Farmers see rice liberalization as a noose over their heads. Their victory is our suffering. Rice liberalization slowly kills the Philippine rice industry and its main food producers,” Mariano said.
The peasant leader expounds that “Filipino farmers lagged behind our counterparts from Thailand and Vietnam precisely because of decades of neglect and policies directed towards further foreign-dependence, such as the RLL. Rice production in those countries are heavily subsidized by their governments. The average domestic cost of production in our country per kilo of palay ranges from Php12 to Php15 per kilo. In Thailand and Vietnam, the rice production cost is much lower at Php8.86 and Php6.22, respectively. The Philippines is way behind Thailand and Vietnam in terms of land reform, support services, irrigation, and farm mechanization. Domestic agriculture’s share in our overall production is constantly declining and RLL just hastens this situation.”
Estimates from non-government organizations pegged the income losses incurred by Filipino rice farmers from the plunge in palay prices last year at Php68 billion to Php84.8 billion. The almost Php85 billion in losses translates to an average income loss of some Php35,328 per rice farmer.
“We will not back down on our strong stance against rice liberalization. We will continue to demand the passage of the proposed Rice Industry Development Act or RIDA which aims to genuinely advance our local rice industry and the condition of our rice farmers,” says Mariano. #
(Featured image from Amihan/Bantay Bigas)