The Advocates for Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) calls on all Filipinos to express their rejection of the Rice Tarrification Bill. The bill will not only remove quantitative restrictions but will also remove the government’s regulatory role on rice importation, such as ensuring imports are safe and meeting sanitary and phytosanitary standards, providing palay price support for farmers, and checking on rice stocks and rice traders.
Protecting the industry that produces the country’s staple food is a vital function and duty of government. Surrendering state control of the industry to private and/or foreign traders and importers is treason. This is what the Rice Tarrification Bill is all about.
It is bad enough that the country which used to export rice, now heavily imports this prime commodity. Removing the government regulations on imported rice will not only be calamitous to our farmers, but to the rest of the citizens as well. The quality, quantity and the price of rice will be dictated by the market and profiteers. There will surely be premium Basmati, Japanese or California rice for the haves and bukbok rice, if ever, for the have-nots.
It is bad enough that the country’s agrarian reform program has failed our rice farmers, and with hardly any government support, they now have to compete with prices of imported rice. According to the bill, a 35 percent tariff will be collected to be used in subsidizing rice farmers to ensure their competitiveness. If this is enough, if this will not be lost to corruption, as has always been the case, or how exactly this shall be undertaken is anyone’s guess. Rice tarrification, in the absence of genuine agrarian reform and strong support to modernize the industry and make local agricultural production competitive, is a false promise in resolving the problems at hand.
We urge the President to veto the Rice Tarrification Bill. We urge the people to mark the proponents of this bill which is derogation from their duty to ensure food security and food self-sufficiency, especially for the country’s farmers. Instead of pushing a full rice trade liberalization, the government should take into account on how to advance the Filipino farmers in the field of agricultural production and rice trading that will genuinely lift their ways of living.
AGHAM, Secretary General
Contact number: 0917 811 5445