Gutoc: Prioritize rice production, welfare of Filipino farmers
CAUAYAN CITY, Philippines — The local production of rice and the welfare of Filipino farmers should be prioritized, opposition senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc said Thursday as she opposed the recently signed Rice Tariffication Law that some farmers here had complained about.
READ: Duterte signs rice tariffication bill into law
Lorenzo Lamug Jr., president of a local farmers federation in Barangay Cabaruan, said Republic Act No. 11203, which converts the quantitative restrictions on the staple food into tariffs, had brought down the price of their palay to as low as P14 to P14.50 per kilo.
“Ang issue naming mga farmers ay ‘yung Rice Tariffication Law po na lalong nagpababa po sa presyo ng palay… Napakababa, kulang po ‘yung income namin para mabuhay at makapag-aral ‘yung mga anak namin,” Lamug lamented during an open forum at the community center in Barangay Cabaruan.
(Our issue is the Rice Tariffication law which brought down the price of palay. It’s so low that our income is not enough to send our children to school.)
The farmer said their produce was good this year — around 100 cavans per hectare — but their income decreased because of the entry of many imported and cheaper rice.
“Mas importante po ‘yung lokal na produksyon, bigyang prayoridad na mabili muna lahat sa tama na presyo (The local produce should be given priority and should be sold at the right prices),” Gutoc said in response to Lamug who asked what the opposition could do about their problem.
The Marawi civic leader stressed that the government should have prioritized support for local farmers instead of opening up the country to limitless and unimpeded supply of imported rice.
“The government should have focused on helping local farmers instead of prioritizing imports. We should lower the farm inputs through subsidies and implement tax holidays to ensure lower cost. The government should also start seriously investing in mechanization and improving farming technology,” she added.
The annual subsidy of P10 billion for the development of the rice industry under the law should also reach farmers swiftly, according to Gutoc.
The senatorial contender also said the higher excise tax on fuel products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act had added burden to farmers who use fuel for their equipment and in transporting goods.
“Considering the high price of fuel due to higher excise tax under the TRAIN Law, farmers are headed to more costs. In the end, scrapping the TRAIN law or excise tax on fuel will solve many problems of the country today,” Gutoc added.
Last February, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law, which took effect March 5.
Under RA 11203, 35 percent of the tariff on rice would apply to rice if imported from Asean; 40 percent if within the minimum access volume (MAV) of 350,000 metric tons for imports coming from countries outside Asean; and 180 percent if above the MAV and from a non-Asean country. /ee
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