Bakit sila magagalit? Villar claims rice farmers had 22 years to be globally competitive
Re-electionist Senator Cynthia Villar can’t understand why she is getting the heat for opening up the country to rice imports with the shift from quotas to tariffs.
For Villar, the rice tariffication law which she shepherded in the
Senate was part of the country’s commitment to the trade liberalization pact which it agreed to more than four administrations ago or enough time for government and farmers to shape up to global standards.
“It’s a certified bill from the President, we cannot do anything about it because we signed an agreement with the World Trade Organization and it has been in existence for 22 years. Ba’t hindi nila nagawang competitive ang farmer in the last 22 years? And ngayon were doing something to react to the problem. Bakit sila magagalit sa amin? And remember the vote in the senate is unanimous 14-0,” said Villar in an interview with ANC.
Rice millers had earlier warned that imports would make rice so cheap that palay farmers would leave their farms and leaving with no palay to mill.
But Villar was adamant that domestic rice production would remain steady with imports taking less than 10 percent of demand.
“Alam mo yung rice production natin it has always been like that 93 percent of our local demand, that’s around 12 million metric tons. And then we import 7 percent that has been always been the case; 7 percent is around at most 1 million metric tons,” said Villar.
She said the law would raise P10 billion a year from the rice tariff to help rice farmers improve their production over the next six years.
“Lalo namang pangit na hindi kami mag-liberalize, that’s a requirement. And pangit din na pabayaan mo na lang ‘yung imported rice na pumasok without tariff. pangit din yun. So we just have to do what we have to do, ngayon kung after 3 years there’s something wrong then we review the law,” she said.
Villar said the biggest question was why the Philippines was prone to rice shortages. “Wala namang nagbabago, they produce the same, ganoon ang supply, ang
cost is the same. Bakit nawawala ang rice and then pagkatapos ang mahal-mahal ng rice? What do you think is happening? Yung nagco-control ng rice trade di ba?” said Villar.