Early last February, I had the chance to visit UP Los Baños for a meeting and was fortunate enough to visit this year’s February Fair.

The UPLB Feb Fair, as we used to call it, is a long militant tradition that can be traced back to when Ferdinand Marcos Sr declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, wherein UPLB students and faculty gathered a month after Martial Law and camped out at the Freedom Park as a creative and militant protest to express dissent. It was later moved to February, and usually on the week when Valentine’s Day will fall. Until now, UPLB Feb Fair continues its militant tradition for nationalism and democracy.

One of the calls during the February 14, 2024 Feb Fair program was for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) or RA 11203 which Duterte signed also on Valentine’s Day five years ago with a promise that this law will lower the price of rice.

When Duterte took office in June 2016, the average retail price for a kilo of well-milled rice (WMR) was P41. 35 and regular milled rice (RMR) was P36.95 per kilo on average. Presently, the local well-milled rice is at P55 per kilo, while the local regular-milled rice is at P53 per kilo, local premium rice is at P60 per kilo, and the local special rice is at P68 per kilo. 

The imported well-milled rice is at P 58 per kilo and the imported special rice is at P68 per kilo.

Just like the other promise by Duterte to end the rice cartel, lowering the prices of rice remained unfulfilled, and how much more for that Marcos-Duterte campaign promise in 2022 of lowering the price of rice to P20 per kilo.

It is worse now, as the Philippines being a small country ended up as the top importer of rice in the whole world. In September last year, we exceeded China’s imports. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted the Philippines made a 3.9 million metric tons (MTS) import from January-December 2023.

We actually warned before that importation will not do any good for our rice industry as early as 2018, see Death by Importation, a PH’s Hunger Game | Davao Today. Yet, the government never listens.

A year after its implementation, we conducted a study within our network to see the impacts of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), particularly the influx of imported rice among Mindanao rice farmers. We noted a significant reduction in farmers’ income, due to the cheap buying price of palay.

The government had argued that RA 11203 will collect tariffs to fund of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). In fact, they were actually proud that they exceeded their collection target on tariffs from P10 billion to P15 billion in the first year of the implementation of RTL.

However, our farmers lost their income, to around P85 billion. Thus, simple common sense would tell us that Filipino rice farmers incurred a net loss of around P70 billion pesos.

Duterte back in 2019 promised us of cheaper rice with his Rice Tariffication Law. The Marcos-Duterte Uni-Team in 2022 promised to lower the price of rice to P20 per kilo. These promises clearly remained as promises. Worse, the Marcos-Duterte Uni-Team holding the top highest offices in our country are now more occupied with squabbling for their self-serving political interest rather than serving the interest of Filipino farmers and consumers.

Clearly, RTL and the current administration do not serve the best interests of Filipino farmers and consumers. They are like pests, consuming our nation’s rice industry. Therefore, there is a need to scrap Duterte’s Rice Tariffication Law, and come May 2025, we must also get rid of politicians who only serve their personal political survival over their oath to serve the Filipino people. 

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