Rice liberalization law, Duterte’s sweetheart deal — Gabriela Rep. Brosas

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Rice picture Feb 2020

While the Rice Liberalization Law spelled doom for Filipino rice farmers, the measure led to a significant boom in the rice importation business, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said on Saturday.

Brosas said the number of import clearances issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry surged by 160 percent  in 2019, from just 1,705 in 2018 to 4,513 in 2019.

The actual figure could be higher since importers who smuggle rice were not accounted for.

“Rice liberalization law, which marks its first year today, made rice importers happier and rice farmers poorer. Kumikitang kabuhayan ang importasyon ng bigas habang sadsad ang kabuhayan ng ating mga magsasaka at manggagawang nakasandig sa lokal na produksyon ng bigas,” Brosas said.

“The surge in rice import clearances alone indicate that rice importation has been a very lucrative area for businesses. If anything, the law appears to be Duterte’s sweetheart deal for rice importers,” she added.

Top 10 rice importers in the country today include Arvin International Marketing, Davao San Ei Trading, and Puregold Price Club, Inc.

This is based on the list obtained by Gabriela Women’s Party from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Total volume of imported rice also soared by 60 percent to 2.245 million metric tons, of which 1.8 million metric tons were recorded since the Rice Liberalization Law was enacted.

“We are literally flooded with rice imports with no regulation at all except for the sanitary and phytosanitary clearances. This is alarming since external crisis situations would leave us with no rice to eat for being too dependent on importation” Brosas said.

“Halimbawa, nagkaroon ng matinding pest infestation sa Vietnam na top rice source natin o di kaya’y magkaroon ng gera. Tiyak na instant ang magiging krisis sa bigas, tapos wala nang pipilahang NFA rice dahil inalis na ito sa ilalim ng batas,” she added.

Brosas is the principal author of HB 476 seeking the repeal of the Rice Liberalization Law, as well as HB 477 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) which will ensure the country’s rice self-sufficiency. /Stacy Ang

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