Farmers from the nationwide group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) urged president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Lito Banayo to file plunder cases against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agri secretary Arthur Yap of the over-pricing of rice imports.  Banayo said that based on his agency’s accounting and report to Aquino, the rice imports from 2001 to 2010 averaged an over-pricing of $60 per metric ton that worsened during 2008 to 2010 to $125 per metric ton.

“This is very alarming as liberalization and corruption are double-bladed against the people, the farmers as producers and poor Filipinos as consumers.  We demand that people who raked up public funds should not go unpunished,” Danilo Ramos said, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.

Based on the data of Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), rice imports in 2008 reached to 2.432 million metric tons and in 2009 to 1.755 million metric tons.  KMP said that these yearly importations would roughly result to over-pricing of $304 million and $219 million, respectively, or a total of $523 million.  Using Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) average foreign exchange of the US dollar for 2008 and 2009, the over-pricing would be in P13.5 billion (P44.4746/$1) and P10.4 billion  (P47.6372/$1), or a total of nearly P24 billion.

“This is far bigger than the P728 fertilizer scam and this is just for 2 years.  Filipino people has been robbed and worse, it was detrimental to our food security.  Every Filipino should be hunting the heads of those who benefited for these crime,” Ramos said.

The group dared the Aquino government to disclose the details of Banayo’s report and immediately punish those responsible.

“We know Banayo is doing this again to save his own ass of the NFA’s financial problem.  But not disclosing the details of this over-pricing would definitely mean that he is considering the same practice in the future.  Banayo acted helplessly about the wasted surplus imports last year, who whined like mad but never filed any cases against those guilty, we are expecting him to do the same at present,” said Ramos.

The group believed that Banayo is a headline grabber to sway public opinion to the over-pricing of rice imports, away from the deepening hunger and poverty as reported by the Social Weather Station (SWS) for the period of September to November last year.

“The hunger report is within Aquino’s period, thus, it is a concrete proof that he has yet to effect any change of the Filipino’s impoverished state.  Hunger and poverty are just symptoms of absence of genuine land reform, worsened by the liberalization policies on agriculture,” Ramos added.

“Aquino could not move on with the gross effects of the Arroyo regime, but he has yet to move decisively against Arroyo.  He is just using Arroyo as a scapegoat to his shortcomings but not directly holding her legally liable of the graft and corruption practices,” he added.

KMP said that NFA’s financial burden has been caused by the liberalization of agriculture, particularly the importation of rice and not by the purchasing of local rice from farmers, which in the first place is its mandate.  It was worsened by the chronic graft and corruption, thus, the agency is at an unsalvageable state as Aquino is geared to implement same program as dictated by US imperialism.

“The least Aquino could do is punish Arroyo, we know that being a landlord and a puppet of US imperialism he would not revert from liberalization, and in the near future, he would put the whole country in deeper poverty and hunger,” Ramos called. #

 


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