The country’s biggest peasants’ organization challenged Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chairperson Senator Villar to act against her own rice tarrification law to prove sincerity in recent pro-farmers pronouncements.
Reacting to the senator’s directives at last Monday’s budget hearing to the Department of Agriculture to realign its 2023 proposed budget to help farmers produce high-quality seeds, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Villar should instead take a look at her pet rice importation liberalization law.
“Senator Villar can rather show her sincerity by supporting demands to review and repeal RA (Republic Act) 11203 or the rice tariffication law,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement Wednesday.
In last Monday’s hearing, Villar castigated DA for its preference for imported hybrid rice seeds over inbred and organic rice seeds, spending P7.9 billion for hybrid seeds distributed to 1.7 million farmers while only spending P3.7 billion for inbred seeds.
Villar also directed the agency to support the use of compost and organic fertilizer over expensive chemical-based fertilizers.
Fertilizer prices increased by up to 22% since 2020, severely affecting rice production and farmers’ incomes, the KMP said.
The group said that along with the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Masagana 99 program, the Villar-sponsored rice liberalization program have further made rice farmers’ lives difficult.
“These two programs, implemented more than 40 years apart, have destroyed the lives and livelihood of rice farmers, and further ruined the local rice industry,” the group added.
KMP said hybrid rice propagation was the central component of Martial Law-era Masagana 99 that heavily relied on expensive imported seeds and farm inputs, which left farmers in debt.
“Up to this day, the majority of Filipino rice farmers remain dependent on the practices set by the Green Revolution and Masagana 99,” Ramos said.
Ramos added that the rice liberalization law that Villar principally authored and enacted in 2019 led to heavy income losses for rice farmers amounting to P206 billion in the past three years.
“The failure of RA 11203 is undisputed, the influx of imported rice caused massive bankruptcies among rice farmers, due to depressed farm gate prices,” Ramos said.
Legislators should support the genuine protection and development of the domestic rice industry. Senator Villar will remain hypocritical if she continues to support rice liberalization while espousing to advance local seeds and fertilizer production, Ramos said.
The KMP also challenged Villar to sponsor the Senate version of House Bill 405 Rice Industry Development Act or the Food Self-Sufficiency Act of 2022.
KMP said that an estimated 96% of Filipinos are rice consumers while production involves around 3.8 million rice farmers who cultivate 4.7 million hectares. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)