The left-leaning Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) urged president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to prosecute those who benefitted from over-importation of rice, particularly Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap who pushed the over-importation of rice in the last years of the Arroyo administration.

“We have campaigning for the past government to support local rice production instead of over-spending for rice imports.  In September 2008, when the P18.25 per kg National Food Authority (NFA) rice hiked to P25 per kg, we called for NFA to buy local palay pegged even at P17 per kg as it would only reach P34 per kg as rice compared to P45 per kg landed price of imported rice NFA employees reported,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General said in a press statement.

Based on government data, KMP said that the government has been importing rice though there were sufficient annual end stock of rice.  In 2006, the country had an end stock of 2.25 million metric tons of rice or nearly 20% of the year’s gross supply, but the following year 2007, the government still amplified its importation to 1.8 million metric tons, a 5.2% increase from its 2006 level.  At the end of 2007, the country had an end stock of 2.17 million metric tons but the government further boosted imports by 34.74% in 2008, reaching to 2.43 million metric tons.  Last year, rice imports reached to 1.75 million metric tons, resulting a 2.63 million metric tons or 23% of the gross supply.  But government has already dealt an importation of 2.47 million metric tons for the 2010 requirement.

“There has been over-stocks of rice annually, but the past administration continued to intensify importation, this is a clear betrayal of the Filipino people, particularly the rice farmers.  The government favored foreign interests than the interests of Filipino farmers.  This is a form of treason and economic sabotage, systematically destroying the country’s food security.  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap should be held responsible for this man-made disaster,” said Ramos.

The group urged Aquino to prosecute those who profited, including the rice cartels close to Arroyo.  They have also called for Aquino to reverse the effects of Arroyo’s agricultural program by ending the liberalization of agriculture and focus on supporting local production.

“We urge Noynoy to stop the liberalization of agriculture, Arroyo favored foreign interests over the country’s and Filipino farmers.  He should issue orders on stopping massive importation and commence on subsidizing local rice production.  He should change our country from being a rice net-importer to being self-reliant,” Ramos called. #
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