MANY of the bad things that have been pulling our country down for decades have grown by infuriating multiples under President BS Aquino. Criminality, poverty, incompetence and inefficiency (just think of the dangerous MRT and LRT trains and the absence of car, truck, motorcycle and bus plates), the untruthfulness of public officials starting from Mr. Aquino himself, and so on and so forth.
We Filipinos generally know that smuggling has multiplied many times since 2010–and that some of the smuggled products are those that hurt our poorest people, the farmers.
Now we have the statement of one of the NGOs monitoring one of our most vital necessities—rice.
Rice smuggling has become worse under Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” governance, says Bantay Bigas.
Bantay Bigas is “an alliance for safe, sufficient and affordable rice.” Its statement is “to express our dismay over the latest figures on rice smuggling and our frustration on government’s denial of and inaction to the issue.”
“BS Aquino did not only fail to attain rice self-sufficiency during his term, he also failed to resolve the problem of rice smuggling that continues to thrive in the country and cripples the local rice industry.
“According to latest UN statistics, the value of smuggled agricultural products increased during the first four years of Aquino’s administration by almost P200 billion with rice leading the list of the most smuggled products with P94 billion in total value.
“In 2012, records showed that 5 out of 10 sacks of rice that enter the country are smuggled. In 2013, an estimated amount of P8-10 billion in tariff collections was lost due to smuggling. Only last month, over a hundred containers of smuggled rice from Thailand amounting to P118 million were discovered.
“These figures are alarming but the government is still in denial and claims that it has its own figures. Instead of denying, the government must immediately do something to address this problem. It is not simply a matter of implementation of customs procedures and compliance to importation requirements but of government policies.
“The WTO framework through the liberalization of agriculture pushes our country to be dependent on imported rice. Through the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) rice importation scheme, the private sector is enabled to import rice from abroad which creates opportunities for illegally imported rice to enter the country using rice importation permits sold to private traders.
“Rice smuggling remains a threat to the local rice industry. It does not only rob the country from tariff collections, it destroys the livelihood of rice farmers as well as local millers and small traders.
“The government should prioritize the development of the local rice industry to eventually put an end to smuggling. It must first and foremost implement genuine agrarian reform through free land distribution; veer away from liberalization of agriculture by pulling the country out of WTO and other unfair trade agreements; provide subsidies, post-harvest and marketing support to farmers, provide free irrigation, and stop rampant land use conversion.
“Aquino’s failure to attain rice self-sufficiency and his failure to address the problem of rice smuggling only proves that under Daang Matuwid, the local rice industry–especially the farmers–has no future to look forward to. “
The Asean Economic Community is now a formal reality. The Aquino regime’s failure in rescuing our rice industry helps guarantee the virtual slaughter of our rice farmers by Asean rice producers, just as the MILF and BIFF rebel warriors massacred our PNP-SAF commandoes in Mamasapano.