DAVAO CITY – A Partylist lawmaker called on government to support local farmers in order to help the country solve rice deficit.
In a statement released coinciding World Food Day Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said “genuine agrarian reform and support for local peasants–not importation–will help the country from the chronic rice deficit.”
“Our farmers would benefit more from the billion pesos the government spends to import rice if it is spent on genuine agrarian reform and support to agriculture. Subsidizing and supporting our farmers would ease the heavy yoke of providing enough food for our people,” Zarate said.He said the increase in the price of rice and corn are seen as the result of El Niño.
To assuage possible rice shortage, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the government plans to initially allocate P19.2 billion to assist farmers affected by El Niño. Importation of rice is also pegged to increase in 2016. The Philippines has imported 1.9 million metric tons of rice this year, according to Balisacan.
But Zarate said the plan to import for supply is “dismaying”, adding that increasing subsidy to agriculture is “more crucial for food self-sufficency.”
Zarate also said that irrigation is the lifeblood of agriculture, yet there are 1.34 million hectares of land that are not irrigated, citing a study made by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
“With El Niño and climate change, the irrigation of our farmlands should be prioritized. However, even the budget for irrigation is riddled by anomalous allocations. For example, there is a total of P507,678,000 budget for the National Capital Region under the National Irrigation Authority in the General Appropriations Bill, which is certainly preposterous,” Zarate claimed. (davaotoday.com)