Romeo Royandoyan (third from the left), executive director of Centro Saka, Inc along with Assistant Secretary of Finance, Ma. Teresita Habitan answers inquiries of farmer leaders on rice tarrification law during the 2nd Agricultural and Fishery Council South Luzon Summit.

“Due to the formula of rice tariffication law, the level of bankruptcy in the countryside will increase unless massive support will be extended,” Romeo Royandoyan, executive director of Centro Saka, said during the 2nd Agricultural Fishery Council South Luzon Summit 2019.

Royandoyan said that after the enactment of RA 11203, the farm-gate price of palay reduced from P20 to an average of P14.

This buying price would discourage farmers to plant and sell their palay, he said.

There is a push to repeal the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law to appeal the fall of farm-gate prices of unhusked rice and to extend help for the rice farmers.

“If you ask me personally, I think dapat i-repeal. Una sana ay inquiry review the rice tariffication law for the simple reason na kailangan i-review ‘yan dahil nalulugi na ang rice farmers. Pangalawa, before the repeal, lakihan ‘yong support sa farmers, pwede ba yong zero interest na pautang? Ang suggestion ko kasi diyan, within the six croppings or eight para talaga prepared ang mga farmers to undergo the liberalization,” he said.

He said that the country has only an average of 1.6 million metric tons of imports annually, but it elevated to 2 million metric tons. He added that there is really a crisis as to why the importation increases.

He said that the idea of the law must help the consumers and farmers, but he cannot see that the enactment of the liberalization of importation helped the consumers as rice prices are still high.

“According to their theory is that if the production cost is mababa, therefore ang price ay mababa rin pero hindi nangyari ngayon. May mga kumita dyan na malalaking traders na ang na-sacrifice ngayon ay hindi simpleng consumers. Ang na-sacrifice ay yong mga rice producer, meaning yong batas na ‘yan ay hindi nakatulong sa farmers,” he said.

He said that incentives must be provided to the farmers who are providing food for the country.

In 2019, the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will not be felt by farmers, he said. Tariffs from the importation under RA 11203 will go to the RCEF which is intended to make Filipino farmers competitive through farming inputs, machineries, and etc.

“This year, hindi yan mararamdaman, I’m sure, wala pa yong pera. Next year, malamang pero ganito ‘yon, next year you have to calculate yong ayuda sa farmers in relation sa lumalaki ba yong imports. Ang problema mo ngayon is that, sinabi na nila na ang kaya lang nila is six billion. What are you going to do with six billion? Ang industry mo ay actually 200 billion,” he said.

He proposed that the massive importation be put on hold or be regulated and enlarge the support to farmers.

He said that help for farmers will not work if the massive importation will not be regulated. There must also be a support to the farmers’ credit loan and seed distribution.

“Ang tanong ko, can the Filipino farmers survive cheap imported rice? Sa initial data na lumalabas, mukhang hindi maganda Christmas nila. Kahit hindi ako gaanong nagtatanim, nalulungkot ako. Kasi hindi ka gumagawa ng batas para pahirapan ‘yong mga tao,” he said.

Royandoyan is also the vice chairperson of the National Sectoral Committee – Committee on Food Staples, Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, Department of Agriculture. He is also a member of Alyansa Agrikultura.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.