Home Headlines RICE TARIFFICATION Duterte urged to veto ‘killer bill’

RICE TARIFFICATION
Duterte urged to veto ‘killer bill’

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CLARK FREEPORT — Consumer and other groups have urged Pres. Duterte to veto the Rice Tariffication Bill now pending in Malacanang, as they dubbed it as “killer bill.”

“We have repeatedly argued that tariffication will not solve the rising rice prices and the lack of affordable rice in the country. Opening up the local rice sector to unbridled imports will only strengthen the control of private traders and rice cartels over the supply and prices of rice and will worsen smuggling at the expense of poor Filipino consumers,” consumer group Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said.

Bantay Bigas, National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan), Anakpawis Partylist, the urban poor group Kadamay, and the Ugnayan ng Lahat ng Inagawan ng Murang Bigas (Unli-Rice) issued yesterday a joint statement against the bill already passed by Congress but still awaiting the President’s signature.

Estavillo said “the government’s dependence on importation is a foolish idea. Since the country’s membership to the World Trade Organization, rice retail prices increased despite the country’s escalating import dependency. Studies have shown that only six percent of global rice production is available in the market while rice-exporting countries experience declining production.”

This, even as Kadamay said that the Rice Tarification Bill “is an act of betrayal against the poor.”

“Pres. Duterte and his economic managers have been assuring us that they would be able to bring down rice prices, and it turns out they planned to scrap National Food Authority rice. If the price of rice increases, hunger would worsen especially because the government would allow the rice industry to be in the hands of businessmen,” said Kadamay leader Estrelita Bagasbas.

Meanwhile, Amihan also lambasted Duterte’s statement to speed up land-use conversion.

“Land use conversion is a major contributing factor in the government’s failure to attain rice self-sufficiency. But instead of finding the right solutions, realize free land distribution and provide adequate support services and subsidies to our rice farmers, Duterte is eager to displace more farmers. The Duterte government is wreaking havoc not only to farmers’ livelihood but also with other industries using palay by-products,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

Soriano added, “The P10-billion Rice Fund will also be vulnerable to corruption and other irregularities just like what happened to the ACEF (Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) and other government agricultural projects especially during Gloria Arroyo’s presidency.

Unli-Rice, an alliance of rice stakeholders in Southern Tagalog said that “tariffication will worsen poverty as farmers will be the first victims once the influx of imported rice results to depressed farmgate prices putting them into bankruptcy and displacement from lands.”

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