On Rice Tariffication Law’s third anniversary, farmers dare candidates for its repeal

Peasant groups hold protest on Rice Tariffication Law's 3rd anniversary. (Source: Bantay Bigas/Facebook)
Peasant groups hold protest on Rice Tariffication Law's 3rd anniversary. (Source: Bantay Bigas/Facebook)

Progressive farmer alliance Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP/Peasant Movement of the Philippines) challenged candidates of the 2022 elections to commit in repealing the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Monday (February 14) is the third anniversary of the RTL’s enactment.

“To avert the complete destruction of the local rice industry and agriculture, RTL must be repealed. Farmers have had enough of Duterte’s neoliberal policies such as unlimited imports,” KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Ramos claimed that the RTL ruined the livelihood of local rice farmers, due to the fact that they would have to compete with rice imports.

“RTL has destroyed the lives of millions of rice farmers,” he said. “Candidates especially for national positions should be clearly against its continuation and for the enactment of a new law and program designed to genuinely strengthen local rice production.”

“Three years of rice liberalization is enough, repeal RTL now!” he added.

The farmer alliance associated the RTL’s negative effect on farmers with the lifting of “quantitative restrictions” on rice imports – allowing for unlimited entry of imported rice for as long as tariffs are imposed.

“By removing quantitative restrictions on rice importation and replacing it with tariffs, the RTL was purported to be the solution to soaring rice prices in 2018. The government also promised to use the tariffs to support programs that will make Filipino rice farmers more ‘competitive’,” KMP said in a statement.

KMP pointed out that RTL’s forced competition led to the decrease in palay prices to the point that farmers are losing income.

“RTL pulled down palay prices, reaching up to P10 per kilo according to rice watch group Bantay Bigas,” they said. “Meanwhile, official government estimates put rice production costs at P15 per kilo. Bantay Bigas estimates that rice farmers lost a total of about P165 billion in income under the RTL.”

Moreover, the peasant alliance mentioned how rice self-sufficiency pulled down under the Duterte administration, decreasing by 15 percentage points from 2016 to 2020.

“RTL endangered the welfare of both producers and consumers. It undermined the livelihoods of millions of rice farmers and pushed many into hunger, bankruptcy, and indebtedness, while retail prices remain unaffordable to poor families,” Ramos said. “This is Duterte’s legacy: hunger and bankruptcy due to policy.”

Furthermore, Ramos also called on the candidates to vouch for House Bill 477, also known as the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA), for “the genuine development of the domestic rice industry towards self-reliance.”

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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