Press Release
October 10, 2018

Statement of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto

On Rice Tariffication

This is a tough balancing act. We must hit the sweet spot that will protect farmers from bankruptcy and spare consumers from high rice prices. Hindi pwedeng busog ang isa, gutom naman yung isa. We should give what the rice consuming poor want without harming the rice producing poor. And there are millions of families in each column.

Rice growing accounts for at least two million farmers. It is a P335 billion annual industry. The forecast is that the disruption will cost them P87.9 billion a year. One worst-case-scenario warns that a farmer stands to lose P19,200 per hectare in income. To many, this is endo of massive scale.

The challenge is to fill the pots with rice without leaving the pockets of farmers empty, or their farms abandoned. One way is to use duties paid on imported rice to boost rural productivity, not just of rice but all farm produce.

And I think there is no orthodoxy in proposing direct cash aid to the severely affected farmers. Kasi kung fertilizer, halimbawa, ang ibibigay, imagine the logistical nightmare plus the moral hazards it will cause. Kailangan ng mga magsasaka ang direktang tulong because the poor state of irrigation and the advent of farm mechanization have made farming dependent on expensive oil. 24 oras umaandar ang water pump dahil may free irrigation nga, wala namang tubig. And every phase of rice production is now done by gas- or diesel-powered equipment.

So for a crucial--if not revolutionary--proposal that will affect the lives of 105 million of us, then rigorous study and spirited debate, as what had reportedly happened in the Cabinet, is a must. Tama lang na kung ang panukala ay unli rice importation, unli din ang debate.

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