March 1, 2016
Manila, Philippines-- Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor), an alliance for safe, sufficient and affordable rice expressed dismay over latest figures on rice smuggling and criticized government’s denial of and inaction to the issue.
“BS Aquino did not only fail to attain rice self-sufficiency during his term, he also failed to resolve the problem of rice smuggling that continues to thrive in the country and cripples the local rice industry,” said Cathy Estavillo, co-convenor of Bantay Bigas.
According to latest UN statistics, the value of smuggled agricultural products increased during the first four years of Aquino’s administration by almost P200 billion with rice leading the list of the most smuggled products with P94 billion in total value.
In 2012, records showed that 5 out of 10 sacks of rice that enters the country are smuggled. In 2013, an estimated amount of P8-10 billion in tariff collections was lost due to smuggling. Only last month, over a hundred containers of smuggled rice from Thailand amounting to P118 million were discovered.
“These figures are alarming but the government is still in denial, claiming it has its own figures,” said Estavillo.
Bantay Bigas pointed out that instead of denying, the government must immediately do something to address this problem.
“It is not simply a matter of implementation of customs procedures and compliance to importation requirements but of government policies. The WTO framework through the liberalization of agriculture pushes our country to be dependent on imported rice. Through the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) rice importation scheme, the private sector is enabled to import rice from abroad which creates opportunities for illegally imported rice to enter the country using rice importation permits sold to private traders,” Estavillo explained.
The alliance also emphasized that rice smuggling remains a threat to the local rice industry since it does not only rob the country from tariff collections but also destroys the livelihood of rice farmers as well as local millers and small traders.
“The government should prioritize the development of the local rice industry to eventually put an end to smuggling. It must first and foremost implement genuine agrarian reform through free land distribution; veer away from liberalization of agriculture by pulling the country out of WTO and other unfair trade agreements; provide subsidies, post-harvest and marketing support to farmers, provide free irrigation, and stop rampant land use conversion,” Estavillo added.
The group further criticized Aquino’s lack of concern for the local rice industry and Filipino farmers.
“Aquino’s failure on attaining rice self-sufficiency and his failure to address the problem of rice smuggling only proves that under Daang Matuwid, the local rice industry-- especially the farmers-- has no future to look forward to, Estavillo ended. ##