Vice-presidential aspirant Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the Team Robredo-Pangilinan (TROPA) would stop the syndicates behind the importation and smuggling of agriculture products that is killing the livelihood of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.
Pangilinan made this statement following reports that the Department of Agriculture plans to slash import duties to allow imported corn to flood the market.
In a statement, Pangilinan only he and his running mate Vice President Leni Robredo said can get rid of the syndicates that are threatening the livelihood of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.
“TROPA lang, Leni-Kiko lang ang kayang sugpuin ang mga sindikatong nasa likod ng importasyon at smuggling na pumapatay sa Pilipinong magsasaka at mangingisda (Only TROPA can eradicate the syndicates that are killing the livelihood of Filipino farmers and fishermen),” he said.
Meanwhile, Pangilinan, whose advocacy is looking after the welfare of farmers, urged the government instead to provide the needed support to the Philippine corn industry to boost production instead of relying on importation.
“Itigil ang pag-angkat ng mais. Dapat bumili ang gobyerno sa Pilipinong magsasaka sa ilalim ng Batas Sagip Saka at lalago ang maisan dito sa atin (We should stop importing corn. The government should buy from Filipino farmers under the Sagip Saka Act and this would improve the corn industry),” he said.
The Sagip Saka Act mandates that the national and local governments can directly buy from farmers without going through public bidding.
Pangilinan likewise warned that the flooding of imported corn with slashed import duties would sound the death knell to corn farmers and the industry. He added that corn farmers are already suffering heavy battering from the high prices of fuel that they use in farming.
“Nananawagan tayo sa pamahalaan na ‘wag gawin sa corn industry ang ginawa nilang pagluluwag sa imported na bigas na sya ngayong nagpapahirap sa ating magpapapalay (We call on the government to not slash import duties of corn like what it did with rice because it will add to the suffering of our farmers),” he said.
Many corn growers are also still trying to regain their footing after a series of typhoons that destroyed their crops last year.
The Philippine Maize Federation Inc. recently wrote the Tariff Commission appealing not to give the go-signal to the government’s proposal to reduce the corn tariff to five percent from 35 percent for in-quota imports under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme and to 15 percent for out-quota imports.
The group said increasing the MAV will bring the imports to 4 million metric tons (MT), representing 73.53 percent of the industry’s yearly production and far greater than the average MAV of 380,000 MT.
“Ang kailangan ng ating magsasaka ay support, hindi import (What our farmers need is support, not import),” Pangilinan said.
“We must learn from the lessons of the rice tariffication law, which flooded our market with imported rice, floored the palay prices, to the detriment of our farmers,” he added.
Pangilinan said that corn importation could pave the way for smuggling, which has remained a significant problem for the government.
“Kami sa TROPA ni Leni, aalisin natin ang pagka-adik ng gobyerno sa pag-angkat ng pagkain (Us in TROPA, we will remove the government’s addiction to importing food),” he said.
“Itataas natin ang productivity para pirmis at sapat ang supply. Ito ang pinakamabuting paraan para labanan ang gutom at mataas na presyo ng pagkain (We will increase productivity to have a steady supply of food. This is the best way to fight hunger and the high prices of food),” he added.