Progressive solon, peasant groups push for law on rice industry dev’t

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. A farmer walks between the rice paddies in Balete. The second batch of their crops are ready for harvesting by the end of February. (Photo by Karen Ann Macalalad/Bulatlat)

“The problem with the current NFA is that it is remiss on its mandate to ensure food security.”

By RUTH LUMIBAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – In a forum about the worsening rice crisis in the Philippines held on March 2, Anakpawis Partylist Representative Ariel Casilao announced that the Makabayan bloc will soon refile an updated version of a bill entitled the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA).

RIDA was first filed during the term of former Anakpawis Partylist Representative and former Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) welcomed this development and is currently holding consultations with farmers’ organizations and consumer advocates on necessary improvements to the proposed legislation.

According to KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos, this legislation will hopefully solve the rice crisis in the Philippines and be a contributory step to achieving genuine agrarian reform. One of the factors that instigated the rice crisis is the inability of the National Food Authority (NFA) to fulfill its mandate to ensure food security. Instead, it has acted as a ‘broker of rice importation and trading and a virtual protector of the rice cartel’.

“The problem with the current NFA is that it is remiss on its mandate to ensure food security. Instead of protecting the interests and welfare of rice farmers and consumers, it has freely given control of the rice industry to private traders and importers,” Ramos said in a statement.

Rep. Casilao explained that the bill shall, among others, penalize the illegal conversion of agricultural lands for commercial purposes, ensure subsidies for farmers, and create a National Rice Food Security Council.

“We appeal to Senators, legislators and other policy-making agencies tasked to craft sound and pro-people policies to consider the following overall demands of rice farmers,” Ramos said.

Ramos enumerated the demands of farmers as the following: 1. Stop importation policy; 2. Attain rice self-sufficiency; 3. Make rice and grains affordable to all; 4. Break the monopoly of private traders in the rice industry; 5. Resolve poverty of rice farmers; 6. Break away from agri-chemical TNCs’ control over Philippine agriculture; 7. Take PH agriculture out of the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture; 8. Genuinely develop the local rice industry; 9. Implement genuine agrarian reform and; 10. Realize rural industrialization. ()

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