WITH Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication law taking effect this week, former Senate President and returning senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile warned against the Philippines being “overdependent” on imported rice, citing it as a concern that can pose a threat to national security.
On the sidelines of his campaign rally in Pampanga on Monday, Enrile said, “We must not accustom our people to rely or become overly dependent on imported rice. We cannot allow other countries to be the supplier of essential item for survival. That’s food. We must produce it here.”
“We will only import the deficit between our supply, our domestic supply and those that cannot be answered by that supply or the demand of the people,” the four-term senator added.
When the new law takes effect, the National Food Authority (NFA) will cease to regulate international and domestic rice trading in view of the removal of importation limits on rice from the international market.
To allay fears that the law will hurt farmers, government officials highlighted that revenue earned from tariffs will go to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), amounting to P10 billion, which seeks to provide better equipment and services to modernize the local rice farming industry.
However, Enrile backed further studies on the implementation of the law since several sectors will be affected – including consumers and farmers.
According to Enrile, who previously served as Defense Minister, food is the “most basic security item of the country” and rice self-sufficiency will be integral to national security.
The veteran lawmaker has stated that investing in research and development in the local rice industry will help protect the four million farmers who will be affected by the rice tariffication law.
“Because we do not have unlimited available lands for rice and corn production, we should allocate adequate public funds for research and development to increase the productivity of our available rice and corn lands,” Enrile said.