While Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chairperson Senator Cynthia Villar is actively batting support for local fertilizer and seeds production, farmers are challenging her to act decisively to reverse the catastrophic effects of Masagana 99 and the Rice Liberalization Law. “These two programs, implemented more than 40 years apart, have destroyed the lives and livelihood of rice farmers, and further ruined the local rice industry. Senator Villar can rather show her sincerity by supporting demands to review and repeal RA 11203 or the rice tariffication law,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.
In a recent hearing, Villar castigated the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the agency’s preference for imported hybrid rice seeds over inbred and organic rice seeds. DA reportedly spent P7.9 billion for hybrid seeds distributed to 1.7 million farmers while spent P3.7 billion for inbred seeds that benefited more farmer-beneficiaries. The multibillionaire Senator also reiterated the use of compost and organic fertilizer over expensive chemical-based fertilizers. Fertilizer prices increased by up to 22% since 2020, affecting the rice production output.
KMP said hybrid rice propagation which was the central component of Martial Law-era Masagana 99 relies heavily on expensive imported seeds, and farm inputs, which left farmers in debt. Up to this day, the majority of Filipino rice farmers remain dependent on the practices set by the Green Revolution and Masagana 99. The rice liberalization law, which Villar principally authored and enacted in 2019, led to heavy income losses for rice farmers amounting to P206 billion for the past three years.
“Legislators should support the genuine protection and development of the domestic rice industry. Senator Villar will remain hypocritical if she continues to support rice liberalization while espousing to advance local seeds and fertilizer production,” Ramos said.
KMP said rice self-sufficiency and food security is the central pillar of the country’s food security. An estimated 96% of the population are rice consumers, while production involves around 3.8 million rice farmers cultivating 4.7 million hectares. The failure of RA 11203 is undisputed, the influx of imported rice caused massive bankruptcies among rice farmers, due to depressed farm gate prices.
Farmers challenge Villar to sponsor the Senate version of House Bill 405 Rice Industry Development Act or the Food Self-Sufficiency Act of 2022. #