President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to rice farmers, who were drastically affected by the rice tariffication law, for the government’s shortcomings of its agriculture plans, yet he has no plans to lift the said law.
The President said he is ready to see eye to eye with the farmers on their concerns about their rice paddy or low prices of palay, as well as the unfinished irrigation projects and defective equipment given through the mechanization program of the government.
“What I am saying to our people is that, do not despair, we can always correct a wrong. I apologize to you if the result you wanted to get during the early days of my administration has been well delayed or not good, not to your expectations. If I can’t help you, then I have no business being here. I have the goal, I will immediately do something about it,” Duterte told ABS-CBN News on Saturday.
“I will ask my office to arrange for a meeting with them, if it’s possible to get them to one place so I will listen and I will resolve the problem,” the President added.
Rice Tariffication Law
The rice tariffication became a law last February, which has been allowing quantitative rice import restrictions with tariffs and the private firms to import rice once the required permit from the Bureau of Plant Industry is secured.
The law also required to give a P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) for the livelihood protection of local farmers, but this regulation has forced the local farmers to sell their products at a lower price, as buying of cheap imported rice has risen in the local trade industry.
Despite that, Duterte has no plans in repealing the law as he believes that doing so could result in a “food crisis.”
“I am not about ready to do that, I do not want to have a food crisis again, because we have a problem, it is just a serious problem, but if you do not have food, for the people, that is different,”he said.
“You have more serious challenge there, and maybe hard to resolve until there is really food on the table. Remember, we cannot be rice sufficient. It’s impossible (because of) climate change, then you have the people growth, and the mismanaged problems of the government. Dealing with it is really solving the problem,” he added.
With that, the President said he would ask several chief executives from regional agriculture sectors to see what is causing the delay of the implementation of irrigation projects.
Moreover, the government would look into the distribution of the “emergency fund” that the affected farmers should be getting.
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked agriculture secretary William Dar to sue the officials, suppliers, and contractors behind those faulty equipment given to farmers in Eastern Visayas.