Senator backs suspension of rice importation

Senator Cynthia Villar keynotes the 12th Philippine National Shrimp Congress at the SMX Center on Nov. 20, 2019. (Dolly Yasa)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday said the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend rice importation is “good for the local farmers in the country.”

Villar was here to keynote the opening of the 12th Philippine National Shrimp Congress at the SMX Convention Center.

“It means they will limit the limit the importation because before you import you need to secure sanitary permits,” Villar told reporters in an ambush interview.

She added that the national government will delay the importation until the end of the harvest season so that their products can be sold.

“The Philippines always imports because the domestic rice production is not enough.”

Villar clarified that the liberalization of the rice industry is covered by the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade- World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) signed in 1995 and expired on 2017.

Since the signing of Republic Act No. 1120 (An Act liberalizing the importation, exportation, and trading of rice, lifting for the purpose the quantitative import restriction on rice), farm gate prices of palay (unhusked rice) dropped to as low as P7 per kilo.

Villar said that the government under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund is distributing to 947 rice-producing towns a minimum rice land of 100 hectares.

Every year, each town will receive P5 million worth of equipments for the next six years as part of the government’s agriculture mechanization program.

“If your local government does not receive anything, report it to the Senate and we will use our oversight powers,” she said.

These towns will also receive 20 kilos of in-bred seeds per hectare, Villar said, adding that these seeds will increase rice production by 50 percent.

“From four metric tons per hectare, to six metric tons per hectare. We want to bring down the cost of rice so that our rice industry can be competitive,” she also said.

Villar also said that under the Philippine Rice Program every hectare will receive one bag of fertilizer.

Funding for these programs comes from the tariff imposed on imported rice, she said.