MANILA, Philippines — A broad alliance of farmers, urban poor, workers and government employees will hold a one-day consultative conference at the Quezon Memorial Circle on September 17, to craft a common position on the looming crisis in country’s rice industry.
The Alyansa ng Mamamayan Para sa Sapat, Ligtas at Abot-kayang Presyo ng Bigas (Bantay Bigas) said the conference will be attended by retailers, wholesalers, millers, leaders of irrigators’ associations, representatives of agricultural machinery companies, and manufacturers of rice sacks.
Bantay Bigas said the consultation at the Century Conference Hall will be crucial in the face of the planned abolition of the National Food Authority (NFA), the investment of up to P1 billion by a Chinese state corporation for the production of hybrid rice for the China market in 10,000 hectares of Philippine soil, and the transfer of rice distribution of cheap rice to the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD).
Lita Mariano of Bantay Bigas said these developments show that there is deliberate move to reduce the role of government in stabilizing prices and supply, noting that leaving price determination to the workings of the market would militate against the 4.3 million poor families that the DSWD wants to be weaned away from poverty and squalor.
The women peasant federation Amihan also scored the seeming haste to dismantle NFA, which is mandated by its charter to buy 10 percent of the total palay output on an annual basis.
Historically, however, the agency never procured palay higher than 3 percent of the output, with NFA eventually engaging in a binge of importations that reach record highs during the Arroyo administration.
Apprised of the deal between Beidahung and AgriNurture, Bantay Bigas said it is tragic that the Philippines would now be producing rice for the Chinese market when it could not produce enough grain for its own people.
Marvyn Benaning, Manila Bulletin