Certified urgent by 50,000 petitioners – Anakpawis presses senators who approved the Rice Liberalization Law to file for its repeal

Certified urgent by 50,000 petitioners
Anakpawis presses senators who approved the Rice Liberalization Law to file for its repeal

Manila, Philippines – As rice watchdog group Bantay Bigas, peasant groups and people’s organizations submit their “Petisyon ng Mamamayan para Ibasura ang Republic Act 11203 Rice Liberalization Law” at the House of Representatives, former Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao challenged the senators who approved the said law to file bills for its repeal as it is deemed “certified urgent” by more than 50,000 petitioners who inked their signatures. Then Senate Bill 1998, was approved 14-0-0 at the senate in November 2018 under the 17th congress. Senators who thumbed up the bill were Villar, Sotto, Sonny Angara, Binay, Drilon, Ejercito, Gatchalian, Hontiveros, Lacson, Legarda, Recto, Trillanes, Villanueva and Zubiri.

At the house, House Bill 476 for the law’s repeal and HB 477 Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) were filed by Gabriela Women’s Party Arlene Brosas and other lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc.

“We dare the incumbent senators who opened the gates for the massive rice importation and caused the bankruptcy of many Filipino farmers to redeem themselves and file the senate versions of HB 476 and HB 477,” Casilao, who primarily authored RIDA during the 17th congress, said in a press statement.

At present, senators such as Francis Pangilinan and Leila De Lima only filed resolutions to review the impact of RA 11203 to Filipino farmers, but not to outright repeal it.

Casilao recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte certified the RA 11203 as urgent to “address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortages, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail the prevalence of corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.”

“The promise of pulling down retail prices of rice is totally sham, while farm gate prices fell to historical lows, throwing farmers into bankruptcy and displacement,” he stressed.

He also slammed that rice liberalization has undermined national food security that is based on self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The government’s “food-on-the-table” agenda is now reliant on the mercy of foreign sources and not on the country’s local productivity.

“To decisively solve the country’s chronic rice crisis, a nationalist and democratic rice development program should be carried out, and this is spelled out by RIDA,” he asserted.

RIDA pushes to allocate near half a trillion pesos for the rice program for three years. This include the P185-billion budget for the core programs such as production support program via socialized credit, farm inputs and machineries, accelerated infrastructure development program such as irrigation and post-harvest facilities, and research and development. A P103 billion annual budget or a total of P310-billion is alloted to the National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay procurement program, as a major state regulatory instrument for stabilizing farm gate and retail prices.

“The country is under a chronic rice crisis because of the past and present regime’s subscription to the archaic neoliberal dogma. Amid developed capitalist countries’ revival of protectionist policies, the country is so old-fashioned that bureaucrats still treat ‘free trade’ as god, at the cost of displacing and marginalizing poor sectors. We urge the people to join the clamor to repeal the Rice Liberalization Law, and to enact the RIDA,” he ended. ###

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