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Central Luzon farmers ask for assistance as palay price plummets

By: creepysiren

Category: Economy, Government, Peopleโ€Ž

Location: Central Luzon, Philippines

Date Published: October 17, 2019

Farmers in Central Luzon stage a protest in Nueva Ecija to call the government’s attention to their plight

About 100 farmers from Central Luzon staged protest actions in Cabanatuan City in the province of Nueva Ecija to call on the government to repeal the rice liberalization law (Republic Act No. 11203) that they blame for the low buying price of palay (unhusked rice).

The protesters, who belonged to the farmers’ coalition Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), camped out at the National Food Authority (NFA) regional office in Cabanatuan on Tuesday before marching to the public market the following day.

They said the average farm gate price of palay in Nueva Ecija province remained at P11 to P12 per kilogram due to the influx of imported grains in the market. (See related story in Business, Page B4.)

Nueva Ecija is one of the major rice-producing provinces in the country.

Ignacio Ortiz, chair of AMGL-Nueva Ecija, said the downtrend in the palay prices had buried farmers in debt and led to their hunger.

He said the NFA should buy rice directly from farmers at P20 per kg to help them cope with the rising production cost.

In Tarlac and Pampanga provinces, the buying palay price has dropped to P10 a kg.

Farmers also deplored the government’s farm mechanization program, which, they said, was not aligned with their needs.

“[Farm] mechanization is useless if we will lose our farmlands,” Ortiz said, adding that they have been pushing for agricultural reforms that will benefit landless farmers.

AMGL members also held protest rallies in front of the offices of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in the Science City of Muñoz.

PhilMech is in charge of developing farm machines for agriculture mechanization while PhilRice is the country’s prime agency for rice research.

Both offices are tasked with providing skills training to farmers with the implementation of the P10-billion rice competitiveness enhancement fund.

Amid the calls to amend or repeal the Rice Tariffication Law though, business groups urged the government to properly implement the law to ensure any “temporary adjustment problems” will be addressed.

In a joint statement on Thursday, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FinEx), Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), Makati Business Club (MBC), and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), expressed their support for Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, which allowed importation of rice with no limit, with the imposition of a 35% tariff.

“We urge the proper implementation of the RTL (Rice Tariffication Law) to ensure that the temporary adjustment problems experienced by our rice sector will be mitigated, and we are sure that out from the birth pains, a new, vibrant, and modern Philippine Agriculture sector will emerge,” the groups said.

The business groups issued the statement amid calls by some lawmakers to amend or repeal the Rice Tariffication Law.

“To reverse it now is tantamount to consigning our agriculture to under development and our farm families continuing child malnutrition. It is for this reason why we support the current efforts of Secretary William D. Dar of the Department of Agriculture to effectively implement the (law) to protect our palay farmers and preserve the gains of the (law),” the business groups said.

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