October 22, 2020 (11:16 AM)

3 min read


JUNK RTL. Bantay Bigas National Spokesperson, Cathy Estavillo explains the impacts of the Rice Tariffication Law on farmers and the local economy during a webinar series initiated by Masipag Mindanao and Davao Today, October 18.

Farmers from various groups in Mindanao called to junk the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) amid the continuous drop of palay prices in the country during a webinar titled “Rice Talks” last October 19. 

Dropping from Php 17.10 on the second week of September to Php 16.89 in the third week of the same month, farmers in attendance revealed that with the decrease of prices, their net income fell to P5.00 per kilo with an average farming cost of P12.72 per kilo. 

John Madero of Makulan Farmers’ Association said that the RTL has affected their livelihood and is ‘unable to sustain’ them anymore. 

“Ang panginabuhi namo karun kay pigado tungod sining rice tariffication law. Karun, ang among pampanguma hindi na kami mabuhi.”

Madero explained that the losses brought by the RTL forced them to leave their farmlands. 

“…ti among uma subong, ang among ginasaligan nga magpabuhi sa amon ginbilin namon kay indi naman gid kami kaya mabuhi,” he said.

Bantay Bigas National Spokesperson Cathy Estavillo, urged the people to sign the petition to repeal RTL.

“Talagang all time low yung presyo ng palay. And di lang sa isang probinsya, kundi nationwide—pinapakita nito kung ano ang epekto ng RTL sa ating mga farmers,” she  said.

According to Estavillo, prices of Palay in the Bicol Region have gone down to P10.00 pesos due to the heavy rain. 

Masipag Mindanao Regional Coordinator Leo XL Fuentes also presented a study on the impact of RTL to Mindanao farmers before the onslaught of Covid 19.

He shared that, in 2018, experts from UP Los Baños had already predicted the effects of the RTL to the farmers.

Some of the predictions included the lack of safety nets, loss of jobs of 5000-6000 employed rice millers, and the strengthening of rice cartels in rice trade that are currently present in the country.

Romulo Solivio Sr., a representative from the South Cotabato Rice Millers Association, said that they are also victims of the decrease of prices because their jobs are in the hands of farmers.

“Nakikiisa po kami sa mga pagtulong at sa problema ng ating mga farmers dahil yung aming negosyo ay nakasalalay sa mga farmers,” he said.

“Kung walang palay wala din kaming magiling,” he continued.

Although the RTL is scheduled for review in 2025, Estavillo said that thousands of farmers will have suffered by then. 

“May apat na representante mula sa mga senators at sabi nila, pagaaral nila, gagawan nila ng mga position paper din para manawagan dun sa gusto natin na pagreview sa RTL. In paper ay so far si Senator Risa Hontiveros palang ang nag-file ng resolution to review the RTL.” Estavillo said.

Proposed alternatives

Aside from repealing the RTL, alternatives were also discussed to replace RTL such as House Bill 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) and House Bill 239 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Act (GARB).

Proposed by Cong. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, some of RIDA’s primary goals are to strengthen the rice industry locally and nationally, developing the National Food Authority (NFA), protecting farmers’ rights to their land, and securing and sustaining enough food for the people.

RIDA will be complementary to GARB according to Estavillo since it’s goal is to provide access of farmers to lands, protection of their rights, and aims to continue with food production in order achieve food self-sufficiency and self-reliance in the country.

RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law took effect in March 2019. Aiming to increase the availability and reduce the prices of rice in the market, it removes previously placed quotas on rice, pitting local farmers against foreign suppliers.

End the silence of the gagged!

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