DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Food security advocates have launched a campaign petition for the repeal of Republic ACT 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
The rice watch group Bantay Bigas, as well as other farmers’ groups, claim that RA 11203 has had detrimental impact on the rice industry, especially on the local farmers.
Imported rice have flooded local markets following the removal of quantitative restrictions on rice imports. Because of this, small farmers decry the dramatic drop in the prices of their harvested palay.
Farmers’ advocacy group Masipag Mindanao, in partnership with University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao School of Management Student Council and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) launched the said petition during a forum titled “Tarrification, Plantation and Plunder: Forum on Philippine Agriculture Crises” in Davao City on Monday.
“The government has abandoned its mandate to the Filipino farmers,” UMA chairperson Antonio Flores told reporters, in an interview. He noted that the current average farmgate price of palay is now only at Php7 to Php15 per kilo.
Flores added that the Php15,000 government loan assistance that will be given to affected farmers “only shows that RTL is a failure as a program.”
The group plan to bring the petition signing to other regions in Mindanao as well.
Flores said they aim to gather millions of signatures nationwide by the end of this year. The petition will be sent to different government agencies, and lawmakers “to show that the people reject such unjust law.”
On the other hand, another threat to the livelihood of Filipino farmers that Flores pointed out is the aggressive expansion of plantations of banana, pineapple, oil palm, and others crops for export.
He bared that the government plans to convert 1.7 million hectares of the country’s agricultural lands into plantations.
In South Cotabato, considered to be the “Mindanao’s rice granary”, farmers are now affected to the expansion of banana and palm oil plantations in the region, Flores said.
As the World Food Day is to be observed in October 16, the group strongly called for junking of RTL and instead implement a genuine agrarian reform program that would address the ‘food insecurity’ in the country.(davaotoday.com)