Duterte 'killing' farmers with 'weaponized' rice tariffication law – group

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Small farmers and farm workers have slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for turning rice lands into what they called the new “killing fields” when he signed a law that lifts the import restrictions on rice.

Silver Bonto, chairman of the National Confederation of Irrigators Associations (NCIA) which has 1.2 million members, claimed that Republic Act No. 11203 or the rice tariffication law practically metes out the "death penalty" to farmers and farm workers and their families.

“For us rice farmers, farm workers and members of our respective families, that new law means new sufferings and injustice, as if, after the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law) ran over us in 2018, we will now be pushed and shoveled into the ‘hammer mill of trade liberalization’ to be totally obliterated from the face of the earth,” Bonto said in a statement.

He said the law is “weaponized to massacre millions of jobs of farmers, farm workers, and rural families.”

“The new law will convert our rice fields into 'killing fields.' We, the rice farmers and the farmers before us, have painstakingly produced food for the Filipino people. But after giving our best to our society, instead of rewarding us for our noble contribution, we were penalized. Worse is, the new law gave us the ‘death penalty’ as if we were part of the drug syndicate,” Bonto said.

The NCIA asked the Senate to move to repeal RA 11203 in the next Congress.

“In your first 100 days as senators, we implore on the Senate intervention through you to repeal the rice import liberalization law. Once that law is repealed, you have rescued from ultimate destruction our 2,000-year-old local rice industry,” Bonto said.

The repeal of the law would help “save at the very least 50,000,000 lives and jobs in the rural and urban areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Erin Tañada said that the rice tarrification law, which he believed would only push more Filipinos into poverty, should be part of the discussions during the election campaign.

The implementing rules and regulations RA 11203 or the rice tariffication law was amended on March 5, taking into consideration the proposals of rice industry stakeholders.

Among the amendments is the removal of collateral for farmers who want to avail of the P1-billion credit facility which will come from the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).Rappler.com