Repeal of rice tariffication law sought
MANILA, Philippines — Calls are mounting at the House of Representatives for the amendment or the downright repeal of the law that liberalized rice importation, which has been blamed for the plummeting prices of palay or unhusked rice to the detriment of local farmers.
Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato and Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte expressed their intent to file a joint resolution to amend Republic Act No. 11203, or the rice tariffication law, which led to the unimpeded importation of rice with corresponding tariffs.
“We need to move quickly to help our farmers who are in a dire situation,” Sato said in a statement.
‘Worst harvest season’
“They are gearing up for the worst harvest season in the history of palay production this September and October and we should be able to assist them in their most difficult time,” she added.
Belmonte said he and his colleagues in the Liberal Party would push for the measure to help the executive department explore more sources of funding for direct cash transfers for farmers to “help save them.”
The Makabayan bloc, on the other hand, said the plight of local farmers necessitated more drastic action, particularly the repeal of the law.
“The signs of the times reaffirm the need to repeal a measure that has ensured immense profit for rice traders, has starved our farmers and their families, and has wreaked havoc to our local rice industry,” the group said.
The Makabayan bloc includes Representatives Ferdinand Gaite, Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, Arlene Brosas, France Castro and Sarah Elago.
Prices of palay plummet
The rice tariffication law was one of the measures eyed by the country’s economic managers to help address soaring inflation by allowing the public access to cheap rice.
To protect the agricultural sector, the bill created the P10-billion Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund to help local farmers improve their productivity and competitiveness.
Critics, however, said the law had failed to address the sudden and sharp plunge in the price of palay in many parts of the country.
Sato confirmed reports that the prices of palay had plummeted to P7 to P8.
On Thursday, Sen. Francis Pangilinan filed a joint resolution in the Senate to amend the rice tariffication law and to grant P13 billion in immediate cash assistance to rice farmers.
The Makabayan lawmakers said rice liberalization had visibly produced “disastrous impacts” on farmers, millers and consumers.
“As of the second week of August, retail prices of regular and well-milled rice remain high at P38.38 per kilo and P42.71 per kilo, respectively, despite massive importation of cheap rice,” the group said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.