By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Members of Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK or Farmers Unity in Kalinga) called for the repeal of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA) during their 8th General Assembly held in Tabuk City on October 18-19, emphasizing the law will eventually kill the rice industry.
“Kalpasan a naaprubaran ti Rice Trade Liberalization Act itatta a tawen ket dagus a narikna dagiti mannalon iti Kalinga dagiti dakes nga epekto (Upon the approval of the RTLA this year, Kalinga farmers immediately felt its negative impact akin to a pest that makes farmers’ suffer),” said TMK chairman Edwin Liw-ag.
In a case study documented by TMK, the gross earnings of farmers in Tabuk City cultivating 1.5 hectares of rice land before the RTL ranges from P100,000–P116,000 (US$ 1,948-US$2,260) at P18.00 (US$ 0.35) per kilo of fresh palay (unhusked rice). This cropping season, the farmer only sold his produce for P59, 000.00. Prices of wet palay slumped to P9.00-P10.00 (US$0.18-US$0.19), lower than the P12.00 ($US0.23) national average cost of production per kilo.
“Ti bagsak a presyo ti irik ket mangiduron kadagiti mannalon nga mangitransporma kadagiti sangkabassit a talon da. Iti pangmabayagan, pangta ti RTLA iti pannakatay ti industriya ti bagas iti Kalinga kangrunaan iti Tabuk kas makuna nga agamang ti bagas iti Kordilyera (The low price of palay are forcing farmers to convert their small farms. In the long run, RTLA will kill the rice industry of Kalinga, especially in Tabuk, which is considered the rice bowl of Cordillera),” Liw-ag explained.
The TMK leader said the P15,000 (US$ 293) loan assistance from the Department of Agriculture would bury farmers in debt since they cannot earn much with the current palay prices. He also lambasted the agriculture department for failing to push for the implementation of other safety nets and settling with a meager P5,000 (US$ 97.42) cash grant for affected farmers.
TMK also sought a dialogue with the provincial Department of Agriculture (DA) office for better agricultural support for Kalinga farmers, urgent of which is the plummeting palay prices.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) – Kalinga chair Juan Dammay meanwhile, said the additional excise taxes imposed on oil under the TRAIN Law already struck them hard. He said the new tax regime increased their production cost, with fertilizer prices rising from P1000 (US$ 19.59) to P1200 (US$ 23.51).
Based on his experience cultivating a hectare of ricefield in Dilag, Tabuk City, he needs 9 to 10 sacks of chemical fertilizers. At the current price of palay, he said there is no way to recover his expenses.
“Adun dagiti mannalon a makapunpanunot nga ag-covert ti dagana ta daytoy pirmi ti panaglugida. Diay laeng makan ti imuladan tapno mabiag ta diay ilako ket saan na masungbatan ti gastos para farm inputs (Many farmers are going bankrupt and now thinking of converting the use of their farms. They will only plant for their consumption since their earnings from selling palay can no longer cover their expenses for farm inputs),” he lamented.
He pointed out that Sen. Cynthia Villar, the leading proponent of the RTLA, is a real estate developer who would greatly benefit from land conversion. He also noted that besides their interest in land and property, the Villars also import commercial rice.
TMK and CPA Kalinga are supporting the passage of House Bill No. 447 or the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) filed by the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives. The bill stands against importation and hinges on the comprehensive development of the rice industry as the cornerstone of the country’s food security. If passed into law, it will task the government to implement programs to capacitate farmers to become individual producers. The bill also strengthens the National Food Authority’s procuring functions.
According to the latest Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA) record, the average yield per hectare in CAR is 3,851 kilograms per hectare. With a farmgate price of P18.32 (US$ 0.36) per kilo, the net income of farmers is P23,097 (US$ 452.56), but farmers now face 16-27 percent income loss with the current palay prices.
Kalinga produces 38 percent of the total palay harvest in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) based on government data. The bulk of production comes from the plains of Tabuk City where farmers can plant rice twice a year to more than 15,000 hectares of irrigated lands according to records of the National Irrigation Admiration. Palay harvest in CAR accounts for 2 percent of the national output. # nordis.net / with reports from Rogyn Beyao