Manila Bulletin

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.

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