By Madelaine B. Miraflor
More and more groups are calling for the suspension of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law — which opened up the market to the unimpeded flow of rice importation — as the price of palay continue to decline to the detriment of the Filipino farmers.
Farmers groups and food security advocates under the National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS) coalition has called on the government to halt the implementation of Rice Tariffication Act to safeguard livelihoods of 3.5 million rice farmers.
Since the enforcement of the law, palay prices have fallen non-stop. It had so far dropped by 43 percent from P21.00 per kilogram (/kg) in September 2018 to only P12/kg in June 2019.
Trinidad Domingo, national leader of the NMFS from Nueva Ecija, expressed the fears of small rice farmers in the country that the Rice Tariffication Law will lead to the early demise of the rice industry similar to the fate of the garments and shoe industry when their cheap imported counterparts flooded the market in the 90’s.
Right now, rice farmers in many parts of the country have been losing a lot of money because of the sudden decline in palay prices to P12/kg. This, while their production costs have spiked from an average of P49,745 in December 2018 to P50,000 in May 2019, especially as farmers incurred additional fuel costs due to lack of water resulting from the recent El Nino.
“From a gross sales of P147,000 per hectare in September 2018, my harvest of 140 cavans in May 2019 had amounted to only P84,000,” Domingo said.
Jhun Pascua, co-convenor of NMFS, also blasted the insensitivity of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Dominguez said last week that he has no plans to stop or amend RA 11203. He said this after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that farmers and some industry stakeholders are requesting the government to review and amend some provisions in RA11203.
“There’s only one law in this universe that cannot be changed or amended. That’s the divine law,” Piñol said.
“All the laws that were made by people, we can change it not for the purpose of thrashing it but for the purpose of improving it. RA 11203 has good intentions [and] that is to bring down the price of rice and at the same time ensure food security, but right now, we don’t see the results that we expected. The price of rice, whether they admit it or not, still remains very high. So where is the spirit of the law?” he further said.