by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol

Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Davao City - Mindanao leaders, including the Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Congressmen and Governors, yesterday called on the country's legislators to review the law which allows unimpeded rice importation as farm gate prices of paddy rice dropped from P22 two years ago to P11 per kilo in many areas of the region this harvest season.

In the 12th virtual meeting yesterday of the Governing Board of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) which includes Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Murad Ebrahim, Congressmen, Governors and Mayors who head the Regional Development Councils and Private Sector Representatives, a resolution was passed unanimously urging both Congress and the Senate to review and make amendments to Republic Act 11203 which allows the unimpeded entry of imported rice into the country.

The resolution was presented during the MinDA Governing Board meeting as among the issues and problems which could affect Mindanao's economic recovery following the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Submitted by private sector representative Engr. Sherwin Begyan and seconded by Agusan del Norte Governor Dale Corvera without any opposition, the resolution called for the "review of the Rice Tariffication Law in the face of irrefutable evidence that the unimpeded rice importation has caused injury to the local rice industry and the rice farmers of Mindanao.”

During the discussions, it was pointed out that the very low farm gate prices of paddy rice, some at P11 per kilo which is below the production cost of P12, is causing economic hardships for Mindanao's rice farmers and could adversely affect the economic recovery efforts of Mindanao.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, whose home province of Bukidnon is one of the biggest rice production areas in Mindanao, said after the MinDA Governing Board meeting that he too has received appeals from rice farmers for a review of the RTL.

"If it is really causing injury to the rice industry and hardships to our farmers, then it is only fair that we review the law," Zubiri, who was among the Senators who approved the passage of the RTL, said.

Sen. Zubiri, a member of the MinDA Governing Board was not able to participate in the meeting because the Senate was in session.

Passed last year by the Senate which discarded the Lower House version of the bill, RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication law (RTL) aims " to provide affordable rice prices for consumers, coupled with the goal of raising the income of palay/rice farmers."

In the process, the law allows importers to bring in as much imported rice provided they pay the tariffs which in turn will be placed under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which assures the rice industry of a P10-B annual support for the next six years.

Studies conducted by the Federation of Free Farmers showed that while rice consumers benefited from the lower rice prices at an estimated value of P6-B, rice farmers lost about P80-B because of reduced income as a result of very low farm gate prices.

Additional losses which have yet to be quantified were also reported in ancillary activities to rice production, including land preparation equipment utilization, milling and processing and by products like rice bran and rice hulls.

A copy of the MinDA Board Resolution will be formally endorsed to both Congress and the Senate for their review and action.

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