SEN. Cynthia Villar supports the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) decision to provide cash assistance to local farmers instead of imposing safeguard duties on imported rice to arrest the continued drop palay (unmilled rice) prices.
“Kasi ang tingin nila kaya natin e. We will try Parang mas gusto nila bigyan na lang ng subsidy ang farmers kaysa mag-safeguard measures. Okay rin yun (Because what they think is we can compete. We will try. It seems like they like it better giving subsidy to farmers instead of safeguard measures. That’s okay, too),” Villar told reporters at the sidelines of 2019 National Food Security Summit in Manila on Tuesday.
She also revealed the Philippines received “good ratings from the world” upon liberalizing its rice industry, allowing the entry of imported rice. The liberalized scheme for the rice sector, she said, also proved the country has the guts to show that the local industry can compete against other rice-producing countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
“E ngayon pag nag-safeguard measure ka, tingin ko ang tingin nila e gumive up na agad tayo, na hindi natin kaya. Mas madali yung safeguard measure pero that is an indication na medyo takot tayo. I want us to compete. Pakita natin na kaya natin no matter how hard it is (Now, if you impose safeguard measure, they will think we have given up and that we cannot compete. The safeguard measure is easier but it is an indication that we are quite scared. I want us to compete. Let’s show that we can, no matter how hard it is),” Villar said.
Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced the DA decided to scrap the possible imposition of safeguard duties on imported rice. Instead, the government will provide P3 billion worth of cash assistance to rice farmers at P5,000 for each. The cash would be distributed before the end of the year.
The Federation of Free Farmers earlier slammed the DA’s decision to scrap the imposition of the safeguard measure, saying the cash assistance will not directly address the problems of local farmers affected by rice imports.
The culprit remains to be the surge on imported rice, and the only way to address the situation was to impose general safeguard duties that should have been done when the volume of rice imports reached a level that was more than what the country needed, FFF National Manager Raul Montemayor told The Manila Times.
“It is [a] palliative, because it does not address the root cause of the drop in palay prices, which is the abnormal surge in imports, which in turn could be cured only by limiting further imports through the safeguard duty,” Montemayor said.
The imposition of a safeguard duty on rice imports was one of the measures the government was banking on to arrest the influx of rice imports. But the country’s economic managers thumbed down the measure because of its inflationary impact, Dar earlier said.
The cash assistance is apart from the DA’s P2.5-billion funding under the DA’s Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program, a one-time loan assistance of P15,000 to small rice farmers at zero percent interest payable in eight years.