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Business groups support culling of 3 million small rice farmers

October 09, 2019


REPUBLIC Act (RA) 11203, or the “Rice Tariffication Law,” is the equivalent of a death sentence on the country’s 3 million small rice farmers. It is, from the realm of the personal — I come from a long line of small rice farmers — the worst law passed in the 21st century. This is also the collective sense of small rice farmers across the country. Except for the fake farmers in the LandBank advertorials, there is not one small farmer who favors the law.

The bludgeoning of the small rice farmers by RA 11203 and the law’s abettors, is all too clear. With palay (unmilled rice) prices anywhere from P8 to P10 per kilogram (kg), the small rice farmers now start the palay-planting season with a prayer that they can sell to the government buying stations post-harvest at P19 per kg, which is actually a big gamble given the limited buying fund of government. Or else. There is actually no “or else” because there is no way to produce at par or higher than the production cost with the current palay-procuring environment.

The sense of desperation in the small rice-farming areas is for real. If by chance you have read the Case-Deaton study on the sense of desperation of rural white Americans, what Case-Deaton has termed as “deaths of despair,” there is a 100-percent chance that those deaths of despair will take place soon in the Philippine countryside of desperate small rice farmers.

So, when six big business groups — the American Chamber of Commerce, the Bankers Association of the Philippines, the financial Executives of the Philippines, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines — fully and unequivocally endorsed RA 11203, those discerning enough readily saw through their agenda. The evisceration of small rice farmers, who are the de facto backbone of the country’s food security despite their low status in life, would be immensely beneficial to countries that dump their food products here (the American food producers), immensely beneficial to real estate developers with the MBC and immensely beneficial to bankers that would rather lend money to bankrupt Korean shipbuilders (i.e., Hanjin) than lend to small farmers.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has fully documented the sense of loathing that bankers have for the small farmers and small-scale agriculture. Over the past two years, according to the BSP, bankers paid total fines of over P6 billion for the right to brazenly violate RA 10000, the law on agricultural lending.

I don’t know much about the so-called Foundation for Economic Freedom, except for its scurrilous claim that a massive land conversion, from agricultural to residential/commercial, was good for a country that cannot even produce enough to guarantee national food security. Groups such as the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), I suspect, are not much different, in structure and agenda, from the groups funded by the Koch brothers, which portray fossil fuels and small government as the savior of humanity. The Koch brothers (singular now as one died recently) also hire mercenaries posing as mainstream economists holding professional chairs in tertiary schools across the US. And these hired guns preach the supposed virtues of small government, fossil fuels and libertarian politics.

Are there “professors” with the FEF? And do they teach their students that government regulations — like what the Koch mercenaries do — are the problem? If so, I will not be surprised.

What is the fully documented basis of the assertion that RA 11203, despite its supposed allocation of at least P10 billion each year to support the small rice farmers, is just a legal scam and would amount to nothing? History. Or, to be more specific, the grand promise of agricultural renaissance that was supposed to come after the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the dying days of 1994.

The accession was accompanied by a promise from the Ramos government and Mr. Ramos’ economic factotums that an agricultural springtime would come out of the WTO membership. The specific promises were:

– Around 500,000 agricultural jobs will be created yearly

– The gross value added (GVA) of agriculture would increase by P60 billion yearly

– Increase in agricultural exports would be at least P3.4 billion yearly.

The Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF) and several mother major amelioration programs for agriculture were legislated or implemented via executive fiat to support those grand promises.

What were the post-accession realities?

– Jobs were lost on a massive scale.

– The Philippines not only failed to shore up its agricultural exports, it became a massive dumping ground for the excess produce of other countries. To the point that even patis and toyo got dumped — and are still being dumped — into the local market.

– Agriculture’s GVA was higher during the pre-accession period than during post-accession.

This is summary of all government amelioration programs for agriculture: failure. If not failure, massive failure.

Will the P10-billion yearly enhancement fund for small rice farmers under the Rice Tariffication Law be any different? No. Its fate has been pre-determined. It would be a bigger failure than the ACEF.

Proof. Scammers and technical smugglers are already profiting from the law. How? By undervaluing their rice imports to depress the tariff proceeds from the rice import law.

Are people so soulless as to profit from the general misery of small rice farmers? Yes. This is the Philippines, remember. A sad country of scammers, fraudsters and con men.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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