President Rodrigo Duterte said rice importation has to be suspended during harvest time since competition would make it difficult for farmers to sell their produce. But he maintained that he could not allow the supply to be depleted because it could result in riots.
Michael Varcas/File
Duterte tells Congress: Allot funds to buy local rice
Louise Maureen Simeon, Elizabeth Marcelo, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 21, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has urged Congress to allot funds for the purchase of the harvest of local farmers and has reiterated his order to suspend rice importation to help agriculture workers hit by the steep drop in palay prices.

While he would not seek a repeal of the Rice Tariffication law, Duterte said he could order agencies to buy the produce of local farmers, a move that he said would help agriculture workers while ensuring enough rice supply.

“I will tell (Agriculture Secretary William) Dar and Congress, ‘You appropriate money and we will buy all the rice, farmgate price of our farmers,’” the President told reporters Tuesday night at Malacañang.

“I ordered Mr. Dar, ‘Secretary Dar, you fill up the warehouse... If they are not consumed, just let it be. We will eat them. If it rots, it’s OK... buy the harvest of the farmers (at) farmgate price,” he added.

Duterte said rice importation has to be suspended during harvest time since competition would make it difficult for farmers to sell their produce. But he maintained that he could not allow the supply to be depleted because it could result in riots.

“This situation is a devil and the deep blue sea. If there is nothing to eat, people get nervous and this could lead to a riot. People become hungry,” the President said.

“If you are in my place, you choose: hungry people or angry farmers? If you have rice, you won’t get hungry. You can eat it. Now, I said, during harvest time, after all, it’s just seasonal,” he added.

Some farmers groups have been calling for the repeal of the law, saying it resulted in the influx of imported rice and forced local farmers to sell their produce to traders at extremely low prices.

Rice traders’ groups also claimed that confusion continues to haunt the Duterte administration on how to go about the influx of imported rice in the country, but suspending the entry of the commodity is illegal and not within the Chief Executive’s powers.

The Federation of Free Farmers maintained that the only legal way to stop imports is to impose safeguard duties that will be high enough to discourage any further imports.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan also joined yesterday the call to scrap the Rice Tariffication law.

“Bayan stands with Filipino farmers protesting today against the rice tariffication law. We join the call to junk this oppressive law and for greater state support for agriculture,” Bayan said in a statement.

AGRICULTURE RICE IMPORTATION
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