Manila, Philippines – Prior the Christmas break of the senate, the rice watch group Bantay Bigas and peasant women group Amihan or National Federation of Peasant Women submitted their “Petisyon ng Mamamayan laban sa RA 11203 Rice Liberalization Law” and urged Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to act on the collective sentiment of more than 50,000 signatories.
“Our wish is for the senators to be moved and at most heed the demand of Filipino peasants and poor consumers to repeal the Rice Liberalization Law pushed by Senator Cynthia Villar until its enactment this February,” Bantay Bigas spokesperson and Amihan Secretary-General Cathy Estavillo said at the protest action at the gate of the senate compound.
Bantay Bigas, Amihan Peasant Women, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Gabriela, Kadamay, Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Food Authority Employees Association (NFAEA), and food security advocates protested since before 2018, when the NFA management cried of their man-made rice shortage that triggered price shocks affecting poor consumers. Its main demand was for the NFA to increase its local procurement of palay at P20 per kilo and retail rice at P25 per kilo, as measures to stabilize prices and both benefiting the producers and consumers.
The group opposed the enactment of RA 11203 in February and by October, it initiated its petition signing and after a month was able to garner more than 50,000 signatures.
“The senators should contemplate that many signed the petition in less than a month, which concretely means the broad opposition of the people against RA 11203. If they want to earn the approval of farmers and poor consumers across the country, they should repeal the law, otherwise, bear the mounting people’s dissent,” she stressed.
She was confident that they could gather hundreds of thousands of signatures by February next year, coinciding the first year implementation of the law. Prior this, they will hold a national caravan to urge more petitioners.
“It is public knowledge that RA 11203 is economic sabotage of the rice sector, primarily triggering depressed farm gate prices as low as P7 per kilo this year, but the retail prices never dropped accordingly. The winners from this law are the private traders and importers, and the big losers are the farmers and consumers,” she slammed.
She said that farm gate prices for the harvest period for the dry season next year would be the end-gamer for the law.
“A repeat of the low farm gate prices during the dry season will ultimately put farmers into a terminal condition. No band-aid solution can salvage them from the deepening state of bankruptcy, but only the repeal of the law,” she warned.
Moreover, Bantay Bigas and Amihan urged the senators to author their version of the House Bill 477 Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA). It is authored at the House of Representatives by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and lawmakers under the Makabayan bloc. It pushes for a near P500-billion three-year national and democratic rice development program and upholds national food security based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
“We are at a historical transition period, when neoliberal bureaucrats are transforming our society from a rice-producing to beggars of imported rice. To destroy the country’s rice production and to totally rely on imports is a moral crime against the next generation Filipinos. We must defend the Philippine rice industry this very moment and urgently repeal the Rice Liberalization Law,” she ended. ###