The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and rice watch group Bantay Bigas assailed Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s statement denying that the farmers lost Php68 billion a year after the implementation of RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law.

“Secretary Dar’s statement is inconsiderate and insensitive to the family of rice farmers who have suffered from bankruptcy, indebtedness, hunger and distress due to the damage of rice liberalization to their livelihoods. He has proven that he is nothing but an apologist of a failed neoliberal policy wrecking havoc not only in the local rice industry but in the entire agriculture sector,” Amihan secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

“It is even more infuriating that instead of sincerely providing measures to address the impact of the law and assess its effectiveness, Secretary Dar has been defending these palliative measures as if farmers are telling lies about the losses they incurred,” Estavillo added.

Bantay Bigas has released an earlier statement that farmers have lost P74.8 billion due to depressed farmgate prices. Farmers from Central Luzon have suffered a loss of at least P25,000 per hectare last year as palay prices dropped to P7 per kilo during the peak of the harvest season. In Cagayan, farmers suffered more than P11,300 losses per hectare while Masipag Mindanao reported 75-85% loss on farmers’ net income.

Estavillo said “Secretary Dar should review his computations since the measures provided by the government could only benefit a few farmers and most of the programs like the machinery and farm equipment were not even felt by the farmers.”

Estavillo noted that the P2.5 billion released under SURE Aid as well as the P1 billion in the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund are loan assistance which farmers have to pay despite continuing bankruptcy and indebtedness.

She added that current palay prices remain low with P10 per kilo in Cagayan and P12 per kilo in Bicol and Capiz. Retail rice prices remain unaffordable for majority of poor Filipinos with prices ranging from P34 to P50 per kilo.

“We reiterate our demand for the repeal of RA 11203 and the enactment of House Bill 477 Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) as an alternative bill. The Duterte government should wake up from the illusion that agricultural liberalization would do good for our farmers and the agriculture sector. There is no better solution in the attainment of food security but developing the local rice industry and agriculture to ensure self-reliance and self-sufficiency,” Estavillo ended. ###

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