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Authority to import rice intensifies smuggling

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LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… Seek the Lord while he may be found;  call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon…” (Isaih 55:6-7, the Holy Bible).

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WHY IS RP, THE WORLD’S 8TH LARGEST RICE PRODUCER, IMPORTING RICE? The Duterte government must act with caution on the claims of groups claiming to represent Filipino farmers that the Philippines is facing rice shortage three months from now, if some eight million bags of rice from Thailand and Vietnam are not allowed to come in.

Available data from the Food and Agriculture Office (FAO) of the United Nations contests these claims, particularly made by a group calling itself Philippine Farmers’ Advisory Board. One such FAO data says that even as of now, the Philippines is the eight largest rice producer in the whole world, accounting for 2.8% of global rice production.

The question here is: if Filipinos are among the world’s biggest rice producers, how will we explain this projected rice shortage? Where did the rice we produced go? Were all of them exported to other countries so that we now do not have rice for our own people? This is truly anomalous, and borders on treason punishable with death!

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AUTHORITY TO IMPORT RICE INTENSIFIES RICE SMUGGLING: The undeniable truth is that rice importations authorized by previous administrations only intensified rice smuggling in the country. Bantay Bigas, a non-governmental organization looking into the rice situation of the Philippines reported in media in March 2016 that rice import authorizations “create opportunities for illegally imported rice to enter the country using rice importation permits sold to private traders…”

The group also claimed, in the same report to media, that “(A)ccording to latest UN statistics, the value of smuggled agricultural products increased during the first four years of Aquino’s administration by almost P200 billion with rice leading the list of the most smuggled products with P94 billion in total value.

“In 2012, records showed that 5 out of 10 sacks of rice that enter the country are smuggled. In 2013, an estimated amount of P8-10 billion in tariff collections was lost due to smuggling. Only last month, over a hundred containers of smuggled rice from Thailand amounting to P118 million were discovered…”

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STOP RICE IMPORTATIONS, STOP SMUGGLING: The more prudent thing to do, therefore, is to immediately stop the entry of imported rice into the Philippines, including that which is being sought at this point by the Philippine Farmers’ Advisory Board. The Duterte government must then conduct an inventory of available rice, so we know the true situation.

Then, I adhere to what Bantay Bigas proposed in its March 2016 statement to media: “The government should prioritize the development of the local rice industry to eventually put an end to smuggling. It must first and foremost implement genuine agrarian reform through free land distribution; veer away from liberalization of agriculture by pulling the country out of World Trade Organization and other unfair trade agreements; provide subsidies, post-harvest and marketing support to farmers, provide free irrigation, and stop rampant land use conversion…”

Perhaps, if we consider these proposals seriously, the anomaly of the Philippines being the eight largest world producer of rice but is heavily engaged in rice importation to feed its people could be minimized, if not totally eliminated, under the Duterte government.

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PLEASE LISTEN: “Ang Tanging Daan” (The Sole Way): a Bible Exposition and prayer session online, could now be heard 24/7 (24 hours a day), in the Philippines and the world at  www.facebook.com/angtangingdaan.  Phone: 0917 984 24 68, 0918 574 0193, 0977 805 9058. Email: batasmauricio@yahoo.com.   (By Atty. Batas Mauricio)-30-




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