Fisherfolk demands end to rice importation scheme
Manila, Philippines – Joining the call of the rice consumers watchdog Bantay Bigas, the national fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Wednesday aired their sentiment to end the era of rice importation and promote the welfare of local rice producers in the country.
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Food conducted a public hearing on the National Food Authority’s (NFA) importation policy and the scheduled expiration of the Quantitative Importation Restriction. The quantitative restriction (QR) on rice will expire on June 30. Under the QR, rice imports within the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) of 805, 200 Metric Tons (MT) were charged with an in-quota tariff of 35%, while all imports in excess of the MAV were assessed with a higher 50% tariff.
“How ironic that despite being agricultural country, we still import tons after tons of rice from the foreign traders at the cost of losing the livelihood of our local rice producers who are forced to sell their products to local private traders at the very low price because the NFA prioritized to buy the imported ones,”
“The systematic rice importation affects not only the farmers but also the consumers who bear the brunt of higher price of imported rice in the domestic market,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
The fisherfolk group slams the Duterte administration’s lack of eagerness to extend the QR once it expires on June 30. The group said the absence of QR will further the anarchic importation of rice in the country.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) this year aims to import 250,000 MT of rice that will serve as the country’s buffer stock in time of “lean months” or the period where farmers await for their harvest.
But according to Bantay Bigas, meeting the country’s buffer stock during lean months has been a worn-out explanation used by the government to justify rice importation. The rice watchdog said top palay producing provinces like Nueva Ecija, Mindoro, and Isabela are able to supplement supply shortage in other provinces.
“Buffer stock should primarily come from our country and not from foreign market which we are not even sure if they are safe at all. The government should provide subsidies to our local farmers in order for them to be productive enough to produce rice for our domestic consumption and ensure rice self-sufficiency,”
“The Filipino people deserve sufficient, safe and affordable rice. It is the government’s duty to strengthen the local rice production through adequate state-subsidy to the farmers and assuring them that they have enough land to till,” Hicap added.
PAMALAKAYA also calls to scrap the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture which legalizes the country’s unwarranted import-dependent rice production. ###
Fisherfolk denounced the bloody dispersal in Kidapawan City
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) condemned the brutal and bloody dispersal perpetrated to the protesting farmers in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato yesterday.
Around 6,000 farmers are protesting in front of the National Food Authority (NFA) to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as subsidy to the farmers who are victims of the 7-month El Nino or prolonged dry spell in the province.
But instead of rice and subsidy, the government through the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responded with bullets and stones thrown to protesters, resulting to five farmers dead and 30 others wounded.
“The 7-month El Nino phenomenon is wreaking havoc to agriculture. Farmers and indigenous people depending on agriculture are gravely affected by its onslaught. El Nino victims stormed to government to demand food subsidy not knowing thatthere is more merciless and ruthless than ElNiño awaiting them; the gunshots they received from the government.” Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson said in a statement.
Rural people like fishers and peasants are the front line casualties of dry season and this equates to hunger. But instead of direct support to the rural people during these hard times, government’s responses were always incompetency and worse violence.
Pamalakaya said that the PNP, AFP together with the local officials who ordered the dispersal should be held accountable to give the necessary justice to the slain victims.
“Involved in this bloody carnage must be scourge accordingly and no one should get away with this. President Aquino will leave the farmers and the Filipino people with a gory legacy. We will assure that this will be included to the charges that he will face right after he steps out of Malacanang.”
“Together with the enraged nation, we stand with the farmers in their plight for justice in these trying times – when the government supposedly assisting us sprays bullets in our wanting mouths.” France ended. ###