Stop rice, corn importation during harvest season, Villar urges DA agencies
Sen. Cynthia Villar urged agencies of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Monday not to allow importation of rice, corn, and other agricultural products during harvest season to avoid oversupply and the excessive decline in farm gate prices.
At the continuation of the Senate Committee on Finance subcommittee deliberation
of the DA's ₱86.3-billion proposed budget for 2021, Villar asked support from her colleagues to back her motion to halt rice importation amid the plummeting prices of palay.
Villar said the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) is in charge of issuing the permits for rice importation.
“They should promise us that 'pag harvest, huwag magbigay ng import permit (during harvest season, they would not release import permit). Common sense naman 'yon na pagmaghaharvest, huwag magbigay ng import permit (It's common sense that when farmers are harvesting, you don't issue import permits),” Villar, a vice chairperson of the panel, said.
"Mag-gawa ng schedule na 'pag tatamaan 'yung pagdating ng importation sa harvest time, eh huwag nang ibigay 'yon (Come up with a schedule that when the importation will arrive during harvest time, we will not allow it). Para wala tayong problema sa (So that we will not anymore have a problem about the) plummeting palay prices," she added.
"I want senators to support this para makinig naman sa atin ang DA (so that DA will finally listen). Kasi akala nila (Because they thought) we are not united in this."
Senators seconded Villar's call, adding that the suspension of importation should also apply to other basic commodities, such as corn, feed wheat, garlic, fish, and poultry products.
"So we'll make a general request to BPI, BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry), and BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources)," Villar said.
DA Undersecretary Arie Cayanan explained to senators later that there were "more safeguards" in their issuance of permits to control the entry of imported products, especially rice.
He said they have also been appealing to traders and millers to support local produce and discouraging them from importing. "Because the only way para hindi po talaga tayo mag-issue (to stop the issuance of permit) is for them not to apply," Cayanan said.
But Villar disputed this, saying the DA could have stopped importation by rejecting the application of the importers.
"Huwag niyo sabihin hindi niyo makokontrol, kung ikaw ay DA na desidido kang i-kontrol, kaya mong i-kontrol. Kung ikaw ang Secretary ng DA at ayaw sumunod ng BPI, eh 'di tanggalin mo. Tama ba 'yon? Huwag niyong sabihin sa akin na hindi mo kayang kontrolin ang BPI ninyo (Do not say you can’t control it. If you are the DA that is determined to control importation, you can do it. If you are the DA secretary and the BPI doesn’t follow, sack the official. Is that right? Don’t tell me you can’t control your BPI),” Villar said.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA will heed the senators' request, but suggested to the panel to formalize the call through a Senate resolution but Villar said that Congress is currently on break and resolutions will not be passed until next month.
Dar also said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) should also be made to act on the persistent problem of smuggling of agricultural products.