Marcos retaliates, pits rice farmers vs Dominguez on rice exportation issue
MANILA, Philippines — Smarting from the rebuttal of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on the failures of the Marcos-era flagship program, “Masagana 99,” the late strongman’s daughter, Sen. Imee Marcos on Thursday resorted to pitting the government’s chief economic manager against rice farmers.
In a statement, Marcos called out Dominguez for his supposed attempt to “downplay the present lack of government aid to farmers” when he said that the country never exported rice under her father’s agricultural program.
“Shame on you, Secretary Dominguez. Give the Filipino farmer some credit! When supported by sound government policy and defended against rampant importation, we can feed ourselves. Give the Filipino farmer a chance!” Marcos said.
The senator, citing agronomist and former University of the Philippines president Dr. Emil Q. Javier, insisted that the Philippines did export rice to neighboring countries when farmers under Masagana 99 produced a surplus of some 89,000 metric tons in 1977 to 1978.
Several decades later, Marcos said that even President Rodrigo Duterte sought to emulate the success of her father’s agriculture brainchild with the revival of the program.
“President Duterte was pushing for a revival of Masagana 99 early on in his administration, but maybe Dominguez misled his best friend, too,” Marcos said, without elaborating further.
The senator issued the statement after Dominguez, in a Senate hearing on Wednesday, disputed her claims that “there was a very effective use of commercial banks, rural banks, and even cooperative banks” under the Masagana 99 program, which was launched by her father, late dictator president Ferdinand Marcos, in the 1970s.
Dominguez, who served as agriculture secretary of former president Corazon Aquino, told the senator that he “cleaned up the mess of Masagana 99.”
“There were 800 rural banks that were bankrupted by that program, we had to rescue them. whether it was a total success or not, it has to be measured against them,” the finance chief said.
Marcos then said that perhaps Masagana 99 was successful in rice exportation. But Dominguez again shot that down, saying, “Ma’am, no, we never exported rice.”
But Marcos claimed in her statement that Dominguez “revealed his disdain for poor farmers who could not pay back their loans” when he called the 800 banks participating in Masagana 99 “a mess that had to be cleaned up.”
“What our country’s chief economic manager is really saying is that rice farmers are a pain in the budget and are not worth subsidizing,” she said.
“He has given up on our rice farmers ever regaining their export potential and will let unregulated rice importation do the dirty job of snuffing them out,” she added.
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