Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today announced she will file next week a Senate resolution to assess the impact of the five-month-old Rice Tariffication Law to ensure that its implementation would not displace ordinary farmers and their families.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said it is incumbent upon the Senate to guarantee that both the Filipino rice consumers and farmers would benefit from the law's strict implementation.
"Our mandate as lawmakers does not stop once a bill becomes law. In the exercise of our oversight function, we need to see to it that the agency responsible for implementing it could ensure that the law would protect, not displace, our farmers," she said.
According to the lady Senator from Bicol, she wants to find out how the Rice Tariffication Law has impacted the local rice farming industry in the early stage of its implementation and ensure that assistance to them are property and strictly enforced.
"It is incumbent upon the Senate to assess the impact of this law and ensure, among others, that its provisions on importing of the national food staple and enforcement of tariff rates are properly implemented and not abused, at the detriment of our local farmers," she added.
According to the Philippine Confederation of Grains Association (PhilConGrains), only about 60 percent of the approximately 10,000 rice mills in the country are operating during the first few months of the law's implementation.
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) claimed that some importers paid "less than what was due from them", if not reduce their tariff obligations by "deliberately lowering the declared value of their imports in connivance with their suppliers abroad."
"Lubos itong nakakabahala dahil ang kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka ang nakasalalay dito. I also learned thatfarmers in Central Luzon have abandoned their farms now to cut on their losses. Tariff rates must be strictly enforced," De Lima pointed out.
The Rice Tariffication Law, logged as Republic Act No. 11203, was enacted to liberalize the "importation, exportation, and trading of rice, lifting for the purpose the quantitative import restriction on rice" in order to make rice more affordable for Filipinos.
The law also allocates PhP10 billion for the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund to enhance the productive capacities of local farmers, including allocation for skills training in rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, farm mechanization, among others.
Source: Senate of the Philippines