Press Release
October 20, 2020

De Lima urges Congress to review Rice Tariffication Law's impact on farmers

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has introduced a Senate resolution seeking to ensure protection of farmers' incomes and livelihoods in anticipation of the upcoming harvest season amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 547 urging Congress to conduct an inquiry into the plummeting prices of palay and a systematic review of the uneven implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) to determine the appropriate policy interventions.

"The situation for farmers has considerably worsened as of late in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as prices of palay reportedly plunged to a five-week low in the second week of September," said De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.

"The uneven implementation of the RTL, combined with the debilitating economic effects of the lockdowns caused by COVID-19 pandemic, have put farmers in an even more vulnerable position than ever before as they are all but forced to sell their palay for little to no profit as the harvest season approaches," she added.

Republic Act. No. 11203 or the RTL, which was formally enacted in February 2019, imposes farmer protection tariffs on rice imports in lieu of quantitative restrictions with the goal of lowering rice prices and ensuring its stable supply to 100 million Filipino consumers.

While proponents of the measure saw the RTL as an "opportunity to revolutionize the agriculture sector and help farmers become more competitive in the global economy," De Lima lamented that "it has been over a year since the RTL's effectivity and the results have left much to be desired."

Citing the research conducted by the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), De Lima noted that deregulation of the rice industry enabled traders and market intermediaries to distort the parity between consumer gains and farmer losses either by withholding some of the price reduction from consumers or lowering palay buying prices much more than necessary.

According to the same study, in the first year of RTL, farmers lost P40 billion while consumers gained a measly P232 million.

In filing SR No. 547, the lady Senator from Bicol underscored the need to conduct a systemic and comprehensive review of the RTL to determine and address the gaps in policy formulation which led to its underwhelming returns during the first year and a half of its implementation.

"A more measured approach to rice liberalization should be considered. In the long run, rice importation should not be seen as a primary solution to rice self-sufficiency as a host of external factors can negatively influence our capacity to purchase from the international market," she said.

"On the other hand, it should be ensured that our own government policies are carefully crafted so that it enhances our capacity to feed ourselves with, and eventually without, the aid of rice imports," she added.

De Lima further stressed the urgent need to extend the much-needed financial aid and other forms of assistance to Filipino farmers whose income and livelihood have been gravely affected by the pandemic.

"Hindi po makatarungan kung ang batas na nilikha para makatulong sa ating mga magsasaka ay nagdudulot pa sa kanila ng dagdag na pasanin. Ang layunin natin: Mapataas ang kanilang kita; na sa kanilang buong sipag na pagkayod at pagsasaka ay may sapat silang maihain sa mesa at may katumbas na pagginhawa sa buhay ng pamilya, said De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion.

News Latest News Feed