Farmers' issues and updates
LATEST UPDATE: November 26, 2019 - 9:26pm
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November 26, 2019

Sen. Imee Marcos has assured rice farmers of P6.9 billion in additional aid by December, in the form of palay purchases or cash, using undisbursed funds from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). 

Marcos allayed worries that a memorandum of agreement among the DSWD, Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority to purchase palay from local farmers “was held in abeyance” following a Supreme Court decision in October preventing budget allocations for items not specified in the national budget through a mere resolution in Congress. 

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier approved joint resolutions to convert cash aid from the DSWD’s Pantawid

Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) into rice, to be bought from local farmers unable to compete with cheap rice imports. -- The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

November 17, 2019

The National Movement for Food Sovereignty will march to the National Food Authority's Central Luzon Office in Cabanatuan City on Monday morning "to urge the government to take proper, adequate, and urgent measures to address the situation of the local rice industry."

"This mobilization is part of the nationwide protest of different farmers organizations and other major rice industry stakeholders to let the public understand the hardships that rice farmers and other stakeholders are undergoing at present and to express our disenchantment and frustration over the government’s failure to address the crisis at hand," NMFS says.

October 10, 2019

Bracing for the full impact of the Rice Tarrification Law (RTL) at the onset of the harvest season in November,  farmers, cooperatives and the clergy in Tabuk City, Kalinga are calling for the amendment of the law to make it less onerous and injurious to the local rice industry.

Tabuk is the rice granary of the highland Cordillera region.

Farmers, cooperatives aided by the clergy are particularly urging that the functions of the National Food Authority (NFA) stripped by the RTL is restored because “(NFA) has become practically powerless to regulate the rice industry and placing local farmers completely at the mercy of free market forces.”

The groups are also asking government to restore the techniques to make rice importation harder, a practice being done in other World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries.

A second look at the RTL should also provide for farmer representation in the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) steering committee, they said.

A farmers’ forum in Tabuk, initiated by the major cooperatives led by the Tabuk Multi-purpose Cooperative (TAMPCO) and joined in by the Kalinga and Apayao Religious Sector Association (KARSA), gathered farmers wanting to listen to their concerns and came up with a united stand on the crisis created by RTL. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

Raul Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) and committee chairman for food staples and for international trade of the National Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, an advisory body of the Department of Agriculture, though claiming that the House version of the RTL  kept the functions of the NFA intact,  legislators made it very easy to import by removing the power of the NFA to require licenses.

 

October 2, 2019

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution calling for the release of subsidies to rice farmers and calling on the government to implement more palay-buying to address the needs of farmers hit by low rice prices.

Hontiveros, in her resolution, says it has “become evident based on government data and testimony from palay farmers themselves that the mismanagement by relevant officials and delayed launch of rice competitiveness enhancement program and safety nets for farmers has meant that things will become far worse for our rice farmers before they become better.”

She says the government release funds under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund in the 2019 national budget and the 2019 rice import tariff revenues as direct cash assistance to farmers.

Tariff revenues are estimated to be between P3.5 billion and P6.5 billion.

September 30, 2019
The Department of Agriculture should fast-track the release of cash assistance to poor farmers who have been hit by low rice prices, Sen. Risa Hontiveros says.

"Kailangan natin bigyang ayuda ang ating mga magsasaka na nalulubog sa pagkalugi," Hontiveros says, financial assistance under the Rice Tarrification Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which was meant to help farmers cope with the removal of limits on rice importation.
 
RCEF has annual allocations of up to P10 billion.
September 12, 2019

The law removing limits on rice imports "endangers the lives and livelihood of Filipino farmers and peasant women that are already one of the most vulnerable sectors of the Philippine society," according to Rural Women Advocates.

The Rice Liberalization Law eased restrictions on importing rice but also imposes tariffs that are supposed to fund assistance to and the modernization of rice farming in the Philippines. 

"But this, in actuality, bred more problems for local farmers and peasant women than it actually solved. Because of the influx of imported rice, which is also mandated and directed by WTO, local farmers and peasant women have no other choice but to lower their price as dictated by private traders," RUWA says in a statement.

Palay, or unhusked rice, is bought at P7-P14 per kilogram but, RUWA said, the price of rice has not gone down. 

"This situation is further evidence that the interest of the Filipino farmers and peasant women are the least of the concerns of our policymakers," RUWA also says.

September 11, 2019

Members of the House of Representatives have filed a joint resolution to authorize the use of the P10-billion appropriation for the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund as "a special emergency fund for direct cash transfers to rice farmers."

Rice farmers have been complaining of low prices of palay (unhusked rice) within months of enactment of a law removing limits on the importation of rice.

"The large drop of farm-gate price of palay has resulted in huge income losses for rice farmers and the industry, which is now estimated to be around P60 billion," the joint resolution reads.

September 2, 2019

Action for Economic Reforms says the Agriculture department's zero-interest loans of P15,000 are a good start in addressing rice farmers affected by low farmgate prices and the entry of cheaper imported rice due to the removal of importation limits.

The loans, which are payable in eight years, "will initially benefit some 100, 000 farmers owning lands one hectare and below," AER says. There are an estimated two million rice farmers in the Philippines.  

"We hope that Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) can be provided for those which will not be covered by the [Agriculture Credit Policy Council] loan. Let us not forget in the narrative the remaining 500,000 small farm owners who are also suffering from the worsening situation in our market," AER president Jessica Reyes-Cantos says.

Groups, including the National Federation of Peasant Women and Bantay Bigas, meanwhile say the loan program included in the rice liberalization law "wouldn't be of help as it does not address the falling prices of palay and the high cost of production."

The groups say "genuine agrarian reform" and developing the local industry through free land distribution and support services and subsidies are "the only solution" to ensure food security and self-sufficency. 

August 15, 2019

The National Irrigation Administration has acquired 18 dump trucks worth P64.599 million for the construction and maintenance of irrigation projects across the country, the agency says in a press statement.

"For CY 2017, NIA purchased 34 units of light/transport vehicles and 17 units of heavy equipment. For CY 2018, NIA acquired 91 units of light/transport vehicles and 18 units of heavy equipment. Meanwhile, five units of heavy equipment and 91 units of light/transport vehicles are set for procurement this 2019," NIA also says.

August 7, 2019

The Philippine farm sector contracts 1.27% in the second quarter of 2019 against growth in 0.12% in the same period in 2018, The STAR's Maureen Simeon reports.

In the first half of 2019, the agriculture sector is also down 0.24% from the 0.63-percent increase last year.

July 15, 2019

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has filed a bill to condone, or grant amnesty for, loans owed by agrarian reform beneficaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The measure, if enacted, will write off unpaid amortizations, interests, penalties, surcharges on loans secured under CARP.

ARBs need to pay for land awarded to them under CARP but because of the costs of farming and because of loss of income due to crops destroyed by typhoons and drought and similar calamities, many fail to do so.

Under Recto's bill, once the arrears are condoned,“the agrarian reform beneficiaries shall be deemed rightful owners of the lands awarded to them.”

Recto said former landowners will still be paid for the land covered by CARP and distributed to farmers.

"Their right to be paid on time and based on the legal contracts will be honored and will not be impaired," he says.

 

The Department of Agriculture recognizes on its website that "the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector is pivotal in generating employment for about a third of the country’s labor force, thereby reducing poverty and inequality for three-fourths of the poor who are in the rural areas."

It also says that the sector is key to providing raw materials to the manufacturing and service sectors of the Philippines.

The DA also says that its mission is "to help and empower the farming and fishing communities and the private sector to produce enough, accessible and affordable food for every Filipino and a decent income for all."

Follow this thread for updates on this vital sector.

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