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Farmers’ protection vs open rice market sought

  • Written by Bernadette E. Tamayo
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 199

THE government must formulate measures to shield Filipino farmers from the effects of the lifting in 2017 of the restrictions on the amount of rice that the Philippines can import.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan made the call during a public hearing on the World Trade Organization’s quantitative restrictions on rice, which will end in June 2017.

He is worried that the 20-year lifting of QR will allow cheap imported rice to flood the market, which is detrimental to local rice producers.
   
“We should prepare our farmers for the lifting of the QR by allocating subsidies to them for machinery, seedlings, inputs and post-harvest facilities,” said Pangilinan.
   
He wants to know what   the government can do to help Filipino rice farmers cope with the impending lifting of the 20-year restrictions on the amount of rice the Philippines can import.
   
Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said that the1995 deadline for the QR lifting on rice has been extended three times: first in 2005 and then in 2015 and finally in June 2017.
   
“That’s eight short months from now. What can government do now? What are the implications if we don’t lift the QR? I also want to know: Where does the 35 percent tariff on imported rice go?” he asked.
   
He said that solving poverty means raising the incomes of farmers and fisher folk as poverty incidence is highest among them at around 38 percent.
   
The senator added that an estimated half of the country’s population earns either directly or indirectly from agriculture.
   
He earlier filed the proposed “Sagip Saka” bill, which requires national and local government agencies to help small farmers and fishers cluster themselves and sell directly to food distributors and consumers.
   
The measure also requires government to directly buy food products from accredited agricultural cooperatives and grants tax incentives to private entities and corporations that buy directly from farmers and fisher folk..
   
He also filed the Coco Levy Trust Fund Act, which will enable coconut farmers to use the P75-billion trust fund recovered from Marcos cronies to improve the coconut industry and increase the incomes of coconut farmers and workers.
   
“’Pag maunlad ang buhay ng magsasaka, maunlad din ang buhay ng bayan,” said Pangilinan.