ADMITTEDLY, it is one of the cruelest ironies of our time that impoverished Philippines, an agricultural country, is now the world’s biggest importer of the grains, the Filipinos’ main staple.
Various quarters attributed this to the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11203, or the “Rice Tariffication Law,” which liberalizes the importation, exportation and trading of rice.
And to think that in the 1970s, the country, under the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was self-sufficient in rice, even exporting the grains to Myanmar, Indonesia and China.
That’s why Sen. Imee R. Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, now wants the government to schedule rice imports outside of the country’s harvest seasons.
The senator from Ilocos Norte appealed to the Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary William Dar, not to import rice during the harvest seasons in March-April and September-October.
Rice farmers don’t have to compete with the unrestricted importation under the Rice Tariffication Law, according to Ms. Marcos.
The lady lawmaker, a daughter of the late President Marcos and former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, is slowly emerging as the “darling” of the country’s beleaguered rice farmers.
At the same time, Senator Marcos said that the country’s suffering rice farmers have been incurring losses due to the lack of drying machines and storage facilities in the countryside.
Actually, rice farmers are forced to sell their wet palay at insultingly low prices because they have to pay their debts to usurers.
We share the view of Ms. Marcos that many local rice farmers are no longer thinking of profit, but they just want to bring down their losses.
Talagang kawawa ang ating mga magsasaka habang ang mga trader ay lalong umaasenso.