Manila, Philippines – Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao questioned the planned importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice by the National Food Authority (NFA) announced by the Department of Agriculture.
“We remind Sec. Piñol to decisively end the legacy of the Aquino regime, particularly the worsened liberalization and commercialization of the rice industry, that trigger excuses for recurring importation of rice in the country, consequently, putting the rice-farming sector into an ever-deepening disadvantage,” Casilao said in a press statement.
The lawmaker said that he believes Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, a Master Degree holder in Rural and Economic Development, is fully aware that the rice sector is dominated by big traders, from the production to circulation sphere, hence, his incessant warning against hoarding.
The militant lawmaker stressed that the Duterte government, especially the DA, should reverse the impact of the Aquino regime’s neo-liberal program in the rice industry that could be described mainly as:
• rice self-sufficiency was not achieved as imports compose as much as 7% of the total supply, contrary to the claims of former secretary Proceso Alcala that it reached 97% in 2014;
• with all the multi-billion peso public spending on the National Rice Program with P31.37 billion from 2011 to 2015, and NFA with P19.25 billion, or a total of P50.62 billion, the outcome was a disappointing opposite, that per capita utilization declined from 121.15 kg to 114.2 kg from 2009 to 2014;
• and NFA share to stock of 37% in 2009 fell to a token 12% in 2013, while commercial stock skyrocketed from 16% to 30% of the same period.
“We urge Sec. Piñol to veer away from the neo-liberal definition of food security that only stresses on the supply, whether it is locally produced or imported abroad; but not on the food-producing capacity of a supposedly sovereign country, but even so, obviously, poor sectors have no physical and economic access to rice,” Casilao said.
He also warned that even the charter of NFA, Presidential Decree No. 1770, stressed in Section 2 Declaration of Policy, “to promote the integrated growth and development of the food industry” to an adequate and continuous food supply, in contradiction to its apparent prioritized program that is importing rice.
The lawmaker prompted the agriculture secretary and the Duterte government to resolutely solve the rice crisis by the following vital measures: secure farmers’ tenure by genuine land reform as protection to productive agricultural lands; abolish the cartels or the monopoly of big landlords and private traders and build the capacity of farmers’ cooperatives to take on the role on the industry from the point of production to circulation or marketing; stop rice importation, paralled with adequare government support to local rice production; increase farmgate prices for the benefit of the producers and keep retail prices affordable for the benefit of the consumers and better accessibility.
Casilao, together with the Makabayan Coalition lawmakers, are presently finalizing a draft bill of an updated version of House Bill No. 3105 or Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA), filed by former Anakpawis representative and present Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano during the 15th Congress. ###