Farmers under Anakpawis Central Luzon kick off protest caravan against rice liberalization
Nueva Ecija – Hundreds of farmers under the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) kick off their protest caravan in front of the PhilRice and National Food Authority (NFA) offices in Nueva Ecija, demanding the procurement of harvested palay at P20 per kilo, and the repeal of the Republic Act 11203 Rice Liberalization Law. AMGL is the regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and affiliated with the Anakpawis Party-list. The caravan contingent will arrive in Manila on October 20 for a vigil, for a protest the following day to mark the anniversary of the Marcos dictatorship-era land reform program Presidential Decree 27.
“Galit na galit na ang mga magsasaka ng Nueva Ecija at Central Luzon dahil sa pahamak na batas ni Duterte. Darating sa Mendiola ang mga magsasaka para singilin siya at itulak siyang ibasura ang Rice Liberalization Law,” AMGL Chairperson and Anakpawis Party-list Central Luzon Regional Coordinator said in a press statement.
Canlas said that rice farmers are already organizing by the tens of thousands in the province and region, and they particularly blame Senator Cynthia Villar for pushing the RA 11203 and President Rodrigo Duterte for enacting it last February. The lowest farm gate price of P7 per kilo was in Zaragosa town in August, as drumbeated by the Bantay Bigas rice watchdog group.
For his part, former Anakpawis Representative and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) National Vice-Chairperson Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao said that it was the rice farming sector from Central Luzon who staunchly opposed the enactment of the RA 11203, as they belong to the country’s rice granary.
“Actually, during the 16 to 17th congress, farmers from Central Luzon have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the lifting of the quantitative restrictions on imported rice, and what they got was worse, the decoupling of the NFA operations or mandate,” Casilao recalled.
He said that Nueva Ecija farmers also ailed on the impact of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law in the early part of 2018, as it triggered price increases of inputs in rice production, especially oil products, fertilizers and agro-chemicals. He also lambasted the pronouncement of the Department of Agriculture to defer or cancel its hyped plan to increase tariffs on imported rice.
“All the DA is blabbering about, such as the sensationalized mechanization of rice production, giving out of loans to farmers, subsidy to local government units’ procurement of palay, and others, are all on the opposite direction of liberalization as it is obviously state intervention. But these are ‘cold water to put out the enraging fire’ of millions of affected rice farmers across the country. They deny the bankruptcy of the law, but all their proposals are undisputed proof of it,” he elaborated.
The former lawmaker expected that on October 21 when the farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Bicol all join together to march toward the Mendiola Bridge, more sectors will pour their support, as even the petition signing launched by Amihan peasant women group and Bantay Bigas is gaining ground.
“Many oppose the law, even government employees, traffic aides and others. The key was whenever they hear that the petition aims to keep Filipino farmers from total bankruptcy that is when they put their signatures. Thus, this is the broad public expression of resentment to the Rice Liberalization Law that Duterte should pay heed to. Otherwise, he should prepare himself for the people’s judgment,” he warned. ###