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Practicality: No to Rice tarrification law.

Ladies and gentlemen, once again good morning!

President Duterte has signed the Rice Tariffication Bill into law, which promises to reform
Philippine agriculture. But until the government genuinely completes land reform and gives
sufficient and substantial support to agriculture, the country’s staple and Filipino farmers remain
at risk. So, as the negative team, we believe that Rice tarrification, is not practicability as a
solution to the rice problem in our country due to the following grounds;

First, it will not help in improving farmers’ livelihood. For instance, according to women
peasant federation Amihan, land rent to date in Nueva Ecija province, the country’s top rice
producer, comprises about 10% of the Filipino rice farmer’s cost of production. About 60% of
the palay cost of production, with most of the inputs even overpriced, is borrowed with high
interest rates, which eat up 18% of the rice farmer’s gross farm income. Flooding the market
with imported rice will only aggravate farmers’ woes of tenancy and overpriced production. It
will push farmgate prices down, causing the already insufficient income of farmers to fall
further. Rice tariffication will not put an end to – but only prolong – farmers’ landlessness and
poverty, which abusive traders have taken advantage of and will further flourish from upon the
rice sector’s further liberalization.

Second, it does not guarantee in lowering the price of rice. The price of rice is not as
simply determined. Since global rice prices are volatile and can become very high depending on
the production conditions of exporting countries. And price manipulation by domestic rice
traders can keep prices high even when cheap imports indeed arrive.Government has not been
able to control the price of imported rice when sold in the local market because they do not have
active production monitoring and price regulatory mechanisms. For instance, the National Food
Authority’s (NFA) procurement price of Php17 per kilo has not increased since 2007. The
government has also not increased subsidies for the problematic agency. A Commission on Audit
(COA) report showed that in 2017, the NFA accomplished only 18.6% of its target and even
diverted its Php5.1 billion Food Security Program budget to pay maturing debts. The NFA failed
to buy rice at competitive farmgate prices, sell cheap local rice to the domestic market and
ensure sufficient local supply. Thus, while global rice prices have been generally falling, local
prices increased as big traders dominated the market. Under rice tariffication, instead of
strengthening government’s mandate to procure and sell locally produced rice and stabilize
prices, the NFA’s powers to do so is being significantly clipped. It will now only ensure the
buffer stock of rice for emergency situations – through importation.

Lastly, it will not ensure stable rice supply. With rice tariffication, the Philippine
government is almost totally relying on a very limited market for the country’s food security.
According to Commission on Audit (COA) report, about 5% of global rice production ends up in
the global market. The rest is consumed locally, where it is produced.This is unfortunate because
as it is, despite the lack of government support for the sector, the country is in fact one of the
world’s top producers of rice, even yielding a surplus of 2.7 million metric tons towards
2018.This means that government should fully support local production by providing farmers the
basic resources and implements at little or no cost, there would no longer be a need to rely on
rice imports, and subject the populace to food insufficiency. According to KMP, to ensure stable
rice supply and affordable prices, all that government needs to do is to take charge in beefing up
the rice industry and boosting local production. This, so that there would no longer be any need
to rely on external sources for the country’s staple. In that case, the country can have sufficient
and even surplus production, with which government can ensure reasonably low price.

President Duterte should junk Rice tariffication law because this would only cause burden
to our famers and to our country. This only shows the reality that we Filipinos are having a
colonial mentality values where we are patrionizing the product of foreign countries than our
own product.