By signing the Rice Import Liberalization Law last February 14, Rodrigo Duterte brought a menace to all palay (unhusked rice) farmers in the country. The said law paves the way for the complete liberalization or the removal of restrictions on rice importation.
The law is compliant with the liberalization policy impositions by the World Trade Organization. Under this law, import restrictions on rice, which were implemented to protect local rice production, are dismantled. The liberalization of rice importation was railroaded amid overproduction of the said commodity and other grain products in the US, China and other countries.
The implementation of the said law will result in the influx of imported rice which will result in the eventual demise of its local production. It endangers the livelihood of 2.4 million palay farmers in the Philippines. (See related article in Ang Bayan, February 21, 2018).
By pushing the Philippine economy into becoming import-dependent on rice, local rice prices will relentlessly rise in the coming years, contrary to the claim that it will pull prices down. No substantive measures have been made to dismantle cartels which monopolize rice supply in the Philippines and are expected to control importation as well. The profits of local cartels and foreign companies are expected increase further.
The projected P90-billion tariff on imported rice will certainly be used to fund anti-people projects and fatten the pockets of Duterte’s cronies and allies and large foreign companies.
Instead of addressing widespread hunger and poverty, Duterte further undermines the potential of the country to produce agricultural products locally and ensure food security.
Earlier, during the first week of February, the Department of Agriculture issued Administrative Order 1 series of 2019 to railroad the use conversion of agricultural lands into real estates, commercial and industrial use. This came after Duterte’s signing of the law on rice importation liberalization.
Farmers from Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan marched and converged in front of the headquarters of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Quezon City to condemn the reactionary government’s successive implementation of anti-peasant policies.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and peasant advocates are apprehensive of the impact of the said law on the rice industry, local agricultural production and food security in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Food Authority Employees Association plans to file a case against the government in the Supreme Court for violating RA 11203 or their right to security of tenure. They asserted that they were not even consulted by the regime before implementing the said law.