By Chito Chavez
Militant groups challenged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to provide substance to the rice importation suspension order.
The group composed of farmers, consumer sector and broad organizations to shed light on the order suspending rice importation and the subsequent procurement of all domestic palay production of farmers in light of the growing public clamor against rice importation and the rice liberalization law.
The multi-sectoral group also challenged DA Secretary William Dar to start the palay procurement without the rigorous and circuitous requirements imposed by the grains agency.
Rafael Mariano, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson emeritus, said the National Food Authority (NFA) should purchase rice grains from the farmers at prices not lower than P20 per kilo while removing any strict restrictions.
Mariano said the protesting groups have submitted concrete proposals on significant palay procurement to the DA adding that Dar must consider the farmers’ demands.
In response to President Duterte’s latest pronouncement, the NFA said it is willing to buy palay from farmers, but they have budgetary constraints.
“We challenge the President to walk his talk and certify as urgent House Joint Resolution No. 18 appropriating Php15-billion supplemental budget for the NFA palay procurement program. The government can also subsidize or assume the interest and other added costs that the NFA will incur for its palay procurement operations this harvest season,” said Mariano.
Mariano also noted the Land Bank of the Philippine can also allow the NFA to use its credit line for an additional P20 billion budget for local rice procurement on top of the annual NFA budget of P7-billion.
In total, Mariano said the NFA palay procurement budget could reach P42 billion that is enough to buy at least 10 percent of the total palay production output for 2019 at P20 per kilo.
“We are presenting doable and acceptable measures,’’ Mariano said.
Suspend RA 11203, shun economic managers
The peasant groups said the President can also direct Congress to suspend the implementation of RA 11203 pending the review of the law’s effects on rice farmers and the entire rice industry.
“Suspension and review of the law is a crucial step in stopping rice importation. The actual and present situation of rice farmers and the strong public sentiment against RA 11203 are enough proof of the calamitous effects of this law that was approved by Duterte himself,” Mariano said.
Mariano also lashed at the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the rest of the economic managers for their hardline stance supporting rice importation.
“We expect the economic managers to counter all efforts to suspend rice importation. Dominguez, Pernia and the economic managers are living in their own illusion that the rice liberalization is beneficial to farmers and the economy,’’ he added.
Groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other consumer groups and stakeholders will gather more signatures for the petition to junk RA 11203.
An initial 50,000 signatures were submitted to Congress while a nationwide caravan will gather more support for this cause.
Mariano said upcoming actions of the broad unity of farmers, labor groups and consumers organizations will press for the repeal of RA 11203 in Congress.