Press Release
March 27, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas said that the government's supply deal from Vietnam for 1.5 million MT of rice--to cost roughly P40-46 billion at prevailing prices--symbolizes government's neglect of the agriculture sector.

He said that the importation of rice will benefit farmers in Vietnam while local farmers continue to bear the brunt of high fertilizer and transport costs as well as insufficient financial and technical assistance from the government.

"I reject that the government is helpless. I reject that there is nothing else that can be done aside from importing rice, aside from pleading to traders not to hike prices and appealing to consumers not to eat more than a cup of rice per meal," the Chairman of the Senate Trade Committee said.

"Ang unang hakbang sa paglutas nitong nakaambang krisis: magpakatotoo ang gobyerno. Huwag nang hintayin pang pilahan ang mga bigasan bago aminin na may problema tayo sa supply ng bigas," he added.

The president of the Liberal Party challenged President Arroyo to lead the people by supporting a temporary suspension of the 12% EVAT on oil which would provide immediate and substantial relief to all Filipinos including farmers, fisherfolk and the transport sector.

He also stressed that the President has sufficient powers to curb rice smuggling and hoarding. The administration should also tap the local government units as price monitors and anti-hoarding watchdogs.

"We are not being alarmists when we call on government to act on the rice problem. Different farmers' organizations have already expressed their own concern over soaring rice and oil prices. Let's work together to help surmount this problem. I reiterate my proposal to the President that she convene the LEDAC for a sober discussion on remedial measures to help our farmers and consumers during these difficult times," Roxas said.

He lamented that government is incorrectly claiming there is sufficient supply but prices are going up due to high prices in the world market. The former DTI secretary said the impact of increased fertilizer costs on the selling price of rice is not that substantial to have raised the cost from P24-P26 to P28-P30 since last month.

Roxas said the implementation of existing policies to enhance agricultural productivity--such as the recently-renewed Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF)--should be improved.

"Sa nakaraang siyam na taon nito, napuna na hindi naging makabuluhan ang impact ng pondong ito. Ngayong may dagdag na pitong taon, dapat ang natitirang P7 bilyon na pondo nito ay mapunta sa pagpapalakas ng produksyon," he said. - more - "So far, P3 billion worth of loans have already been granted from the fund, but only 3% of this was allocated to rice. It's high time that we review how the ACEF is being used," he added.

The ACEF was created 12 years ago through Republic Act No. 8178, the Agricultural Tarrification Act, for the Philippine agriculture sector to better compete globally. The ACEF proceeds are to be set aside for irrigation, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest equipment and facilities, credit, research and development and other similar forms of assistance.

The Liberal Party President also recommended the following measures:

  1. Immediately releasing the local government unit (LGU) calamity funds for the purpose of aiding the farmers with seeds, fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the next harvest is as plentiful as possible.

  2. Direct the LGUs to establish a food security early warning mechanism, particularly in the barangays, to ensure targeted distribution of rice especially to children and the elderly.

  3. Reactivate the peace process in insurgency areas to allow the unimpeded cultivation, planting, tending and harvesting of crops in these conflict areas.

  4. Create special investigative and prosecutorial teams to run after hoarders, profiteers, members of the rice cartel as well as the corrupt elements in the NFA who have diverted the rice stocks from public outlets to private stores.

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