Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros presented her solutions to the pressing problems faced by rice farmers after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) confirmed that the price of palay has fallen to an all-time low in 8 years and the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that there are areas that are forced to sell for as low as P10.00 per kilo.
At the 10th National Congress of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Hontiveros proposed that P12,000 be given to each farmer as “bayad lugi” or compensation to the losses they suffered from the massive inflow of imported rice. She also pushed for the immeidate release and distribution of P 6.5 billion worth of cash assistance to farmers this year.
“Sa kaliwa’t kanang delibersayon, balitaktakan at minsan maaanghang na debate ukol sa isyu ng bigas, isang mahalagang boses at interes ang nalulunod sa ingay, ito ang boses at kapakanan ng malilliit na magsasaka. At ang katotohanan, sa likod ng ingay at kuro-kuro, kailangang-kailangan na ng mga maliliit na magsasaka ng tulong,” Hontiveros said.
“Ang nagpapakain sa atin ay walang makain,” Hontiveros added. According to the United States Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS), the Philippines is set to the be the world’s 2nd largest rice importer, at 2.6 million metric tons (MMT) of rice, next to China.
Hontiveros said that is also pushing for a nationwide Rice-Subsidy Program where the government will directly purchase the rice from local farmers, valuing it no less than P20.00. She hoped that the program will be an integral tool in raising the profit of the farmers and sustain the supply of local rice at markets. She fully supports an increase of tariffs and an implementation of an import ban on imported rice, which she calls the “cause of the crisis.”
Hontiveros also called for strengthened support of sectoral cooperatives, citing success stories of their ventures to help alleviate the suffering of farmers. In 2017, the collective asset of the Sumilao farmers’ cooperative rose to P1.4 million, leading to the increasing number of their children receiving education. She also shared the success of Camarines Sur’s Pecuaria Development Cooperative Pecuaria Development Cooperative, who supplies rice to major malls in the country, as well as Calima Socio-Economic Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CASEMPCO), a major exporter of virgin coconut oil to Japan “Patunay sila na sa kabila ng hirap, posible ang magandang at masaganang kinabukasan sa pagsasaka sa bansa,” she said.
“Matindi man ang krisis sa palay at iba pang problema, sama-sama natin itong haharapin at sosolusyonan. Asahan po ninyo na patuloy nating ipaglalaban ang karapatan at daing ng hanay magsasaka sa loob at labas ng Senado,” Hontiveros ended.