February 9, 2011/ BANTAY BIGAS PRESS RELEASE
Representatives of farmers’ organizations, farmers’ cooperatives, retailers, millers, wholesalers, irrigators’ associations, sack suppliers, farmers, consumers, public sector union members, in a breakfast meeting with Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, on February 9, 2011 presented the highlights of the first ever National People’s Rice Congress led by Bantay Bigas, held on February 8, 2011 at the National Irrigation Administration’s Convention Hall.
Anakpawis Party List Representative Rafael V. Mariano read the unities of the delegates to the congress whose goal is to strengthen the Philippine rice industry to ensure the country attains 100% rice self sufficiency without depending on rice importation.
Bantay Bigas spokesperson Lita Mariano echoed the urgent demand of farmers and consumers to bring back to the market the Php18.25 per kilo NFA (National Food Authority) rice and increasing the NFA’s palay procurement by restoring its budget of at least Php8 billion.
Secretary Alcala who also chairs the NFA Council said the council will study the recommendations of Bantay Bigas. The breakfast meeting ended with a commitment by Alcala that the NFA Council will dialogue with Bantay Bigas on March 3, 2011 to discuss their proposals.
Bantay Bigas has been conducting series of dialogues with the NFA on the determination of a reasonable palay and rice prices since 2009. The recently concluded National People’s Rice Congress themed Towards Strengthening the Philippin Rice Industry is the culminating activity of the series of island-wide rice industry consultative exchange from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in 2010 whereby unities, programs of action and policy recommendations for legislative action and implementation were affirmed.
Below are the 14 policy actions affirmed and recommended by the delegates to the congress.
- Strengthen Philippine agriculture primarily by implementation of pro-people policies with the provision of adequate budget for agriculture, in particular the local grains industry; provision of adequate subsidies – production subsidies, seeds and organic fertilizers subsidies, services and facilities towards attaining 100% Rice Self-Sufficiency;
- Restore the Php 8 billion subsidy of NFA for 2011 with additional budget of at least Php 15 billion for palay procurement from farmers to ensure availability of affordable rice for the poor without having to rely on artificially cheap imported rice;
- Strengthen NFA’s capacity to procure at least 25% of total palay production of Filipino farmers;
- Provision of modern tools and machineries for planting, harvesting, and processing of rice to improve and increase total rice production in the country;
- Immediate development of agricultural infrastructure especially for irrigation for increased farm areas for palay production. Irrigation fees should be reasonable, affordable or subsidized by the national government, and water for irrigation should be prioritized especially in times of drought;
- Recognize, support and enhance women’s significant role in the whole aspects of the rice industry both as producers and consumers;
- Full utilization of locally adapted rice varieties, protection of local varieties from appropriations, and recognition of farmers’ rights over seeds including seed exchanging and saving;
- Uphold and protect the right to safe and sustainable food for the people primarily rice as staple food;
- Stop the implementation of policies of deregulation, liberalisation and privatization in all its forms such as decoupling, rationalization, re-engineering, restructuring that leads to abandonment of the mandate of NFA and other Rice Agencies of ensuring food security and stabilization of supply of affordable rice;
- Protection of the local rice (Grains) industry, from anti-people policies dictated by international financial institutions led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the USAID, including, international and multilateral/regional/bilateral trade organizations/agreements as the World Trade Origanization (WTO) and the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA);
- Unite for a clean and transparent governance towards attaining fully developed local rice industry and 100% rice self sufficiency and food security;
- Stop all land use and crop conversions in all agricultural lands especially those planted to rice and corn;
- Stop all large-scale mining activities/projects including other industrial/commercial projects that would adversely impact on farmlands, wáter and marine resources and communities, and;
14. Implement a genuine agrarian reform program that provides free land distribution for landless farmers and farmworkers through the proposed Genuine Agrarian Reform Act of 2010 or House Bill (HB) No. 374; and the proposed Rice Industry Development Act of 2010 or HB No. 3105.
Convenors of Bantay Bigas are Amihan, Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), IBON Foundation, Incorporated, MASIPAG, Incorporated, Phililppine National Food Security Program (PNFSP), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Pamalakaya Pilipinas, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agriculture (UMA), Kadamay, NFA-Employees Association, SAMAKANA, Salinlahi, Anakpawis Party List, Bayan Muna Party List, GABRIELA, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), QCPSTA-ACT, KAIROS.#eof#