Bataan lawmaker pushes for the ‘Filipino Farmers First Act’

ORANI, Bataan — “Today, our rice farming industry is up against the ropes and our own government is the one who put it there. What was once the centerpiece of our agriculture industry is now barely making ends meet and is threatened with extinction every single day. The worst part is that we are doing this to ourselves and we are effectively killing our own industry, and periphery industries along with it.”

This is how the Philippine Star columnist Tony Katigbak describe the plight of the Filipino farmers nowadays.

News and commentaries on radio and TV talk shows tackled about a kilo of unhusked rice or palay that costs P7 which brought our farmers to starvation. Palay prices have plummeted across the Philippines’ rice-producing regions. 

Nueva Ecija was once described in elementary textbooks as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines”, a kilo of unhusked rice sells for a measly 7 pesos. Yet rice traders are reportedly not buying it.

Way back in 2017, a kilo of unhusked rice sold for P18 pesos a kilo. At that time, rice farmers were already pleading with the government to protect them by placing a floor price on their harvest, which they deemed was priced too low in the rice trading market.

“Nothing exists in a vacuum in the country, especially in smaller rural provinces. Once the main source of livelihood suffers, everything in the town suffers along with it. So when rice farmers in the provinces are feeling the pinch all of the town’s periphery businesses are going to suffer alongside them. And when more and more towns end up with ailing businesses and citizens struggling to make ends meet it’s going to spell disaster for the country,” Katigbak added.

This prompted Bataan lawmaker, Congresswoman Geraldine B. Roman to file House Bill no. 04625 or “The Act Mandating Rice Retailers To Identify Locally Produced Rice as produced By Filipino Farmers, And Appropriating Funds Therefor” otherwise known as “The Filipino Farmers First Act”

“Ang agrikultura ay isa sa mga sandigan ng ating bansa. Sa pamamagitan ng ating mga magsasaka ay natitiyak natin na mayroong makakain ang bawat Pilipino. Subalit hindi nila magagampanan ang tungkuling ito kung ang mga produkto nila ay hindi nabibili. Sa pagbili ng kanilang mga produkto nakasalalay ang kasiguruhan ng kanilang kabuhayan,” she lamented.

Recent news articles and broadcast reports stated that farmers are blaming the recently signed Rice Tariffication Law, which farmers branded as a form of rice liberalization that opened the gates for imported rice to flood the local industry. 

As a result, the influx of imported rice into the country, farmgate prices of unhusked rice have fallen to record lows like the provinces of Pampanga, it is P9 per kilo, and in Bataan, it is P7 per kilo.

“Ano pa bang hinihintay natin? Unahin na natin ang ating mga magsasaka at tangkilin ang sariling atin! Hindi po tayo nag-start ng boycott sa mga imported na bigas, pinaparami lang po natin ang ating options. Dahil kapag mas maraming pagpipilian, you get to choose the best,” Rep. Roman reiterated.

Roman added that her bill also provides penalties for those who will mislabel their (traders) products.

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