Pro­posed rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION -

We ex­press our strong op­po­si­tion to the pol­icy of rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion as it will def­i­nitely not ad­dress the root cause of con­tin­u­ous food in­se­cu­rity, rice short­ages and the wors­en­ing poverty in the coun­try.

Rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion fa­vors do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional rice car­tel op­er­a­tors and will fur­ther ex­ploit the al­ready ex­ploited Filipino farm­ers and fish­er­men by forc­ing them to pro­duce big bulks of rice, meat and fish just to meet the global dic­tum.

The plan is to im­pose tar­iffs in lieu of quan­ti­ta­tive re­stric­tions on rice im­ports in­clud­ing fish and meat. This is be­ing pur­sued to sup­pos­edly ar­rest in­fla­tion by at least one per­cent, which only min­i­mally low­ers the prices of com­modi­ties.

The Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity (NFA) would still be man­dated as the sole au­thor­ity to un­der­take the direct im­por­ta­tion of rice for the pur­pose of en­sur­ing food se­cu­rity and main­tain­ing suf­fi­cient na­tional buf­fer stocks. But there’s no as­sur­ance that the Filipinos will have food se­cu­rity con­sid­er­ing the neo-lib­eral agree­ments signed by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion will re­move tough gov­ern­ment con­trols on all agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties and will oblige our do­mes­tic mar­ket to shift un­nec­es­sary re­sources to the global rice mar­ket and for com­pe­ti­tion pur­poses.

It will be a bur­den to all Filipinos es­pe­cially the 60 mil­lion cat­e­go­rized as the poor­est of the poor fam­i­lies be­cause of the high pos­si­bil­ity of price in­crease in all ba­sic com­modi­ties like rice, fish, meat, canned goods, veg­eta­bles, bread, etc.

The price in­creases would be due to the bloat­ing of rice im­port and to the un­sta­ble sta­tus of the global mar­ket that has been fur­ther in­ten­si­fied and le­gal­ized by the Train law.

In a coun­try where land­less­ness, job­less­ness and home­less­ness pro­lif­er­ate, rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion will not be of help for the ma­jor­ity of Filipinos. It will lead to farm­ers go­ing bank­rupt and drown­ing in debt and their dis­place­ment from their lands.

It will put farm­ers at a dis­ad­van­tage es­pe­cially be­cause gov­ern­ment has min­i­mal sup­port for them.

In or­der to ad­dress poverty, food shortage and in­fla­tion, Congress should pass in­stead the Gen­uine Agrar­ian Re­form bill for it has the ca­pac­ity to uplift the lives of the ma­jor­ity of Filipinos through ru­ral aid like ir­ri­ga­tion, calamity sub­sidy, in­stal­la­tion of post-har­vest fa­cil­ity, agrar­ian mech­a­niza­tion and the boost­ing of the local mar­ket.

Land con­ver­sion must stop be­cause it con­trib­utes to the un­ceas­ing de­crease in the size of till­able land that af­fects the an­nual pro­duc­tiv­ity of agri­cul­ture thus shak­ing our food se­cu­rity.

Lastly, we want to re­it­er­ate that the right to safe, healthy and sus­tain­able food sys­tem is a ba­sic and uni­ver­sal hu­man right that the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment must pro­vide. There is no need for rice tar­if­fi­ca­tion in­clud­ing the im­po­si­tion of new tax mea­sures as th­ese are not good for the Filipinos both in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor.

We pray that the gov­ern­ment will hear and con­sider our in­ten­tion. - Philip­pine Net­work of Food Se­cu­rity Pro­grammes, Inc.

Frankly, I don’t think there is any overt ef­fort by Duterte crit­ics to work to­gether to oust the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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