By Diamay Klem D. Balacuit | Feature Writer
Vol. XCI No. 7
Sept. 13, 2019
Republic Act No. 11203, commonly known as Rice Tariffication Law, was signed by President Duterte last February. This act was said to help the farmers — yet it shows the other way around.
The Rice Tariffication Law is an act that liberalizes the importation, exportation, and trading of rice and lifting the quantitative import restriction on rice. It is an amendment of the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 wherein there are quantitative restrictions that have allowed the government to limit the volume of rice imports every year. The said limit then protects the local farmers from foreign competition.
In the new Rice Tariffication Law, the quantitative restrictions are lifted — making individuals and businesses import additional volumes of rice crop from Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. The said individuals and businesses will have to pay a 35-percent tariff (tax on imports), and the collected tariffs will then be used to fund mass irrigation, warehousing, and rice research.
Upon its implementation, the consuming public sector benefited from it. The influx of cheaper prices of rice is now allowed to the domestic market — easing the burden of the consuming public due to high inflation rates.
But the thing is, the farmers of our country suffered the most. Recently, several groups of farmers claimed that palay (unmilled rice) prices in some places went down to P6 to P10 per kilo. Since the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, the drop of farmgate prices of palay plummeted affecting them the most.
For a country known for its agricultural products, farming is not new to us. In fact, most of the Filipinos depend on farming. But the thing is, poverty incidence is evident to every farmer’s life. It is sad to know that most of our farmers do not have an easy way of living. On top of that, they struggle to meet the demands of the consuming public — leading them to exhaust all of what they have just to ensure that they can yield rice. With problems such as climate change, low prioritization from the government, and land reform, the struggling situation they have becomes worse.
With the recent implementation of Rice Tariffication Law, foreign competition against the local farmers is now in full effect. The farmgate prices of palay went down just to keep up with this competition. Because of this, the farmers who are already in debt in funding their farming cost cannot pay back due to the loss of income — making them suffer more poverty.
The implementation of Rice Tariffication Law is just one of the things our government does in order to address the economic problem of our country. However, instead of alleviating the farmers’ burdens, it added more.
Our farmers deserve all the help they can get. The law was meant to bring good to them, but why it does bring harm instead? Instead of benefiting from this law, they are experiencing more struggles.
For us to address the problems the farmers have, instead of just focusing on the economic gain that this law proudly brings, the government might want to consider the negative effects its implementation has on the farmers. The government might want to review over and over again the implementation of this law — to check if this law has already uplifted the struggles of the farmers.
Let us remember that farmers are one of the most important sectors in our society. They provide food and we should not wait until we cannot see them anymore.