“Liberalization is good but the government must ensure that the farmers will be given incentives. The 5 Million RCEF due for our farmers will be used in the marketing. I want you to be a part of the local economy and I don’t want you to lose your buying power”, Mayor Eliordo U. Ogena addressed the rice farmers during the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) Forum on August 28, 2019 at City Hall Lobby.
As the national government enters a tariffed system and imported rice starts flooding the market, local farmers are now threatened that tariffication removes all restrictions on the volume of rice imports, so importers will be free to bring in as much rice from abroad for as long as they pay the corresponding tariffs.
The forum was organized to help the rice farmers and seed growers understand how RCEP works in providing assistance to farmers as compensation for the projected reduction or loss of farm income arising from the proposed rice tariffication.
In his presentation, Philippine Rice-RCEP Provincial Coordinator Wilson C. Gaton said that in order to help improve rice productivity and mechanization, the RCEF will be used to promote and deploy rice farm machineries and equipment to eligible farmers association and registered rice cooperatives in the coming months.
The RCEP is a 6-year mechanism program funded by tariffs generated by rice imports. The fund hopes to make the domestic rice industry more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seed, and more financing and extension services, among other measures.
Meanwhile, NFA Provincial Manager Nelson Sañada reported the adverse effects of the Rice Tariffication Law or RA 11203, which allegedly led to the shutdown of majority of rice mills in the Province of South Cotabato. “Farmers will lose about 4 Million pesos because of rice tariffication, Sañada said. Aside from the expected increase of rice imports, Sañada said this new policy liberalizes the importation, exportation, and trading of rice, lifting for the purpose of quantitative import restriction on rice. He further explained that as the said law prohibits the NFA from importing rice; their agency is now focusing on procuring palay from local farmers at P20.70 per kilo from farmer’s organizations and cooperatives and P20.40 from individual farmers. He also offered the use of the NFA solar dryer and encouraged the farmers to seek help from government agencies in the transportation of their rice produced.
On the other hand, inputs on Greenhouse Gas Emission by DENR XII and some important updates from City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRMMC) were accorded to the participants.
Also, the farmers, seed growers and resource speakers engaged in knowledge sharing and meaningful interaction in an open forum for the farmers to ask questions and consult with the resource speakers regarding their specific concerns including problems in farming and possible opportunities to compete in the market.
“If you want your voice to be heard, organize yourselves so you can in place policies. You need to rise and understand that as a sector, they are killing you. If you will not act now, the impending approval of the Tariffication Bill could lead to the death of the agricultural industry.”, Mayor Ogena said.