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Pacquiao, Ka Leody, Montemayor see need to repeal Rice Tariffication Law

Three presidential candidates said on Saturday that the Rice Tariffication Law should be repealed, partly blaming it for the continued woes of farmers.

Facing their fellow presidential candidates at the PiliPinas Debates 2022, Senator Manny Pacquiao,  labor leader Leody De Guzman and Dr. Jose Montemayor said the law needs to be repealed as it adversely affects the country's agricultural sector.

Pacquiao said the law only brought hardships to farmers.

“Kaya lang ako sumuporta diyan sa Rice Tariffication Law dahil meron pong P10 billion na ibibigay sa mga farmers natin pero hindi po sila nakakatanggap. Ang masakit po is hindi sila nakakatanggap kahit piso,” he said.

(I only supported the Rice Tariffication Law because there was supposed to be P10 billion that should be given to our farmers but they did not receive it. The painful thing here is that they don't receive even a peso.)

“‘Yun po ang aking gusto na i-abolish na lang po ‘yan dahil pahirap po ‘yan,” he added.

(I want to abolish the Rice Tariffication Law because it is bringing them hardship.)

Pacquiao earlier proposed a review of the Rice Tariffication Law, saying the government should push for the procurement of rice from farmers instead of farm input subsidies.

De Guzman said the country has around 11 million farmers who have taken the hit when imported rice came after the removal of the barriers.

"Malaking problema talaga dito sa ating agriculture 'yung Rice Tariffication Law at kung 'yun ang problema, ako ay nagpapanukala talaga na dapat ay mawala o ma-repeal 'yung Rice Tariffication Law dahil nagpahirap 'yan doon sa 11 milyong magsasaka," De Guzman said.

"Kahit anong programa ang gawin natin sa ating mga magsasaka, kung hindi marerepeal 'yung Rice Tariffication Law na 'yun, ay talagang walang mangyayari sa kabuhayan ng ating magsasaka," he added.

Montemayor said the "evil" of rice tariffication should be repealed.

"Napakasarap pakinggan yung mga farmers, tutulungan natin  pero hanggat hindi matanggal ang evil na rice tariffication na 'yan, walang kuwenta lahat ng pangako natin sa farmers," he said.

Businessman Faisal Mangondato, another presidential candidate, said the government should allocate funds and sufficient land for the people to plant crops, noting that this would discourage the importation of rice.

“Yung tungkol sa rice tarrification dapat po handa ang ating pamahalaan na yung four million na lupain na pagsakahan ng pagtaniman na palay, dapat yung three million na irrigated land dapat. Ang gobyerno paglaanan ng pondo para sa ganoon hindi na tayo aasa ng bigas sa ibang bansa,” he said.

Signed into law in February 2019, rice tariffication removed the quantitative restrictions on rice and imposed a 35-percent tariff on imports from the country's neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The measure allows unlimited importation of rice as long as private sector traders secure a phytosanitary permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry and pay the 35-percent tariff for shipments from neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The law earmarks P10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, of which P5 billion will be allotted to farm mechanization and P3 billion to seedlings. The fund intends to ensure that rice imports won’t drown out the agriculture sector and rob farmers of their livelihood.

Several farmers' groups have opposed the law and called for its repeal, saying it will kill Filipino tillers as palay prices fall due to the flooding of the market with imported rice.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, palay prices have fallen to their lowest in eight years, with a 27% year-on-year drop in farmgate prices to P15.35 per kilo across the country as of October 25, 2019, or eight months after the law came into effect.—Anna Felicia Bajo/Giselle Ombay/Richa Noriega/Joviland Rita/LDF, GMA News