The National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth calls for the urgent repeal of RA 11203 or Rice Liberalization Law. A year has already passed since it was implemented and it has wreaked havoc in the lives of rice farmers, consumers, and the entire nation’s rice self-reliance. If allowed to continue, RLL will further exacerbate food insufficiency issues and will definitely set a precedence for neoliberal policies that would be spelling crisis for future generations of Filipinos. As it stands today, rural children and youth from affected rice farming families and communities already face hunger and malnourishment as consequences of bankruptcy and indebtedness. In the face of an aging farming population, the worsening rural poverty further compels young farmers to desperately seek other means of livelihood aside from agriculture. The very future of the whole rice-consuming Filipino population is jeopardized by the destruction of the domestic rice industry.

The persistence of inaccessible prices for milled rice despite absurdly low palay prices, record-high rice importation volumes, reports of rice smuggling to circumvent tariffs, and decreasing inflation, reveals that supply shortage is not the principal problem. The problem is that our rice is held hostage by cartels. Yet, instead of safeguarding against anti-competitive practices, RLL has even deprived the National Food Authority of its capacity to seize hoarded rice for public sale when needed.

The RCEF component of the law is at best a roundabout way of developing the nation’s rice industry, but more realistically a highly suspect corruption-prone fund inaccessible to poor farmers. To trust the government in this regard is particularly hard for farmers (short of naiveté or delusion) especially since many of our country’s most prominent corruption cases involved funds supposedly dedicated to farmers.

RLL further enables the biggest rice traders (cartel members themselves) and corrupt bureaucrats to profit from over-importation contracts, from smuggling and monopoly pricing, and from government “agricultural” projects through bogus cooperatives or NGOs – essentially to profit from the hunger of our very own rice producers and the poorest rice consumers.

In this light, we firmly support legislative measures, filed by the MakabayanBloc, that would ensure the safety and security of rice production in the country. House Bill 476 to Repeal RA 11203 or Rice Liberalization Law, House Bill 477 to enact the Rice Industry Development Act; and most importantly House Bill 239 that would enact the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.

Instead of being applied as a business model for other crops (such as Department of Finance’s proposal for sugar), RLL should be repealed immediately. What we need is a decisive breaking up of monopolies in local agriculture and comprehensive rural development centered on land reform. Instead of eroding our local capacity to produce, our rice farmers must be uplifted. In a time where neoliberal policies such as RLL kill the local rice industry, we are in greater need of genuine agrarian reform to achieve self-sufficiency and food security. We plead to our honest and patriotic legislators and policymakers to proceed to work closely with Filipino farmers in feeding ourselves as a nation, contrary to those who just make money from our people’s hunger and impoverishment.#

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