“Lowering tariff rates on rice imports is an unnecessary and unwanted extension of RA 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law’s negative impact to rice farmers and consumers. This confirms that the Duterte government would rather honor the country’s commitment to the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA)and please neoliberal advocates, rice cartel, big importers and traders than protect our food producers and attain national food security and self-sufficiency,” Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women secretary general and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said in a press conference held today calling for the junking of Duterte’s Executive Order 135 which lowered the Most Favored Nation (MFN)tariff rates on rice imports from 40% to 35% for in-quota and 50 percent for out-quota for one year.

“Why is there a need to reduce tariff and flood the local market with imported rice when the Department of Agriculture is confident to hit or even surpass its target production of 20.4 million metric tons this year? It seems that this EO is made to satisfy the greed of the few. Napakalinaw naman na hindi ito para sa interes ng mga magsasaka at mamimili,” Estavillo said.

“Production subsidy at ayuda ang kailangan ng magsasaka, hindi mababang taripa. Filipino rice farmers lost an estimated P165 billion for the first two years of RLL which triggered depressed palay farm gate prices while rice prices remain unaffordable for the poor and marginalized consumers.  The government should instead provide necessary and appropriate production support to local farmers to boost the local rice production and improve farmers’ welfare,” Estavillo said.

“Duterte’s neoliberal policies on agriculture including import dependence and agricultural neglect are contributing factors in the current food crisis. Reliance on a very limited and volatile global market for the country’s food security does not in any way guarantee food availability, accessibility and stability,” Estavillo added.

“For a National Food Security Summit to succeed, policies and programs should address the issues faced by the most important component of food production – the producers. Policies that maintain monopoly of land and other resources are policies that keep food producers and majority of Filipinos poor and food insecure,” Estavillo said.

Amihan and Bantay Bigas expressed support for the Senate Resolution 726 seeking the withdrawal of EO 135 and urged the lower house to file a similar resolution.

“We reiterate our demand for immediate distribution of P10,000 cash aid and P15, 000 production subsidy for the farmers, peasant women, agricultural workers, fisher folk and other rural-based sectors. We urge the people to support the call to junk Rice Liberalization Law and uphold and defend the local rice industry and agriculture from Duterte’s policy of destruction and hunger,” she ended.  ###

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