In his briefing last 18 November 2020, Agriculture Secretary William Dar reported a 3.84 billion-worth of damages due to the recent typhoons, including 160,873 MT of produce lost, and infrastructure and equipment rendered unusable (Business Mirror, 19 November 2020).
This is a big blow to an agriculture sector trying to prove resilience amidst the global pandemic.
With this, the Center for Liberalism and Democracy (CLD) calls on the government to uphold the provisions of the 2019 Sagip Saka Act (RA 11321) authored principally by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and focus on aiding rice farmers recover to be productive anew after the string of calamities that hit their livelihood.
Resolution should be to empower and make resilient the agriculture sector.
Efforts should be on making sure that farmers are financially assisted through crop insurance and uncollaterized loan grants as mandated by RA 11321.
To empower and make resilient is to put in place systems to lessen the impact of disasters.
It is capacitating farmers financially and technologically to secure development and ensure dignity.
Farmers should not be allowed to beg for rice after a calamity.
Furthermore, the intent to import more rice should only be transitory, just to augment the immediate need for the staple. Being an agricultural nation, we are capable of producing more than enough for the country given enough attention and support.
We call on the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the volume we are importing will not eventually hurt our local farmers as government continues to provide the needed assistance to allow them to get back on their feet.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and other concerned agencies should be on guard against possible attempts of smugglers to take advantage of country’s need for the staple and bring in rice through illegal means like mis-declaring the quality of the imported and pay lower tariff.
Left unchecked, these would be another calamity for our rice farmers – a calamity that may be harder to handle. Their dire situation and the country’s food security may come to a point of irreversibility.