“Why would the government launch a National Food Security Summit, if it will only rely on imports instead of boosting local production? The summit should be boycotted because it is organized by those who instigated the food crisis and those who did not address the legitimate demands of rice farmers and food producers.”
By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – Representatives from the agri-fishery sector, together with consumer watch groups, staged a protest outside the Department of Agriculture (DA), boycotting the agency’s National Food Security Summit.
The protesters said the DA’s National Food Security Summit event would not directly benefit marginalized peasants and food producers who are demanding fundamental reforms in the sector.
“The National Food Security Summit is only for traders, investors, financial managers, and state developers, because it is what’s in line with the 12 key strategies that are being promoted by the Duterte regime,” said Amihan Secretary-General and Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo during the protest.
Estavillo was referring to the Agriculture Department’s action plan, dubbed as the “One DA Holistic Approach to Agriculture and Fisheries Transformation,” purportedly to aid the agri-fishery sector by providing assistance and implementing programs, activities, and projects towards inclusive growth.
“Why would the government launch a National Food Security Summit, if it will only rely on imports instead of boosting local production? The summit should be boycotted because it is organized by those who instigated the food crisis and those who did not address the legitimate demands of rice farmers and food producers,” continued Estavillo in Filipino.
Further, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women and Bantay Bigas called on fellow local rice stakeholders to express their dissent against President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 135 that lowers tariff on rice imports from 40 percent to 35 percent.
“The EO 135 is an added ‘means to an end’ and a path to destruction and bankruptcy to farmers’ livelihood and [the] country’s food security. This will multiply the negative impact to rice farmers brought about by Republic Act 11203 [or the] Rice Liberalization Law,” Estavillo said in a statement.
The group said that tariff reduction on rice imports would further pull down farm gate prices of palay which has been at its historic low since the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law.
According to the group, this worsens the administration’s marginalization and neglect of rice farmers and food producers who are yet to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, “We urge the people to uphold and defend the Filipino rice industry and agriculture from Duterte’s policy of destruction and hunger,” Estavillo ended.