The country has to establish a grains modernization program to arrest the plight of farmers by 2017 when the quantitative rice import restrictions will be lifted upon the Asean Economic integration.
Third District Rep. Arthur Yap explained that in 2017, the Philippines will lose its quantitative restrictions and all import volumes will be free.
The â€œ40-percent duty on rice shipments for a yearly â€˜minimum access volumeâ€™ of 350,000 tonnesâ€ will only be until July 2017.
The consumers may benefit from it, but it will kill the farmers.
â€œWe have to prepare because right now. Even on per hectare basis, Philippine farms are producing more per hectare, the price and cost of producing rice in the Philippines is more expensive and when the quantitative restrictions is lifted by 2017 and everything opens up, it would be hard to compete,â€ according to Yap.
At present in Vietnam, Thailand and other countries, 100-percent premium grain rice can be bought at P25 per kilo.
â€œThis is why I believe I need to file a legislation on Comprehensive Grains Modernization Program, not only for rice, but also for corn and possibly soya beans and other grains,â€ Yap said.
The modernization program will ensure that the government can provide farmers with the basic farm input.
â€œWe are 101 million Filipinos and growing. How will you support Filipinos on rice alone? We need chicken, fish pork. Here in Bohol, every event there is lechon. But you cannot do that without corn. You cannot do that without other support for grains, to support for feeds,â€ Yap pointed out.
There should also be financial subsidy, insurance subsidy so that when the calamities come, there is seeds support subsidy.
â€œYou cannot have a self-sufficient program in grains, if you do not have a national seeds program. How can you have a national seeds program when you are importing seeds from China, Thailand or India? In 2008, in my experience as secretary of agriculture, when there was a crisis, all the countries shut down. You couldnâ€™t buy seeds,â€ Yap added.
He said the government cannot feed the people unless there is a national seeds program.
â€œThen we also need the national post-harvest drying program. There is no silver bullet to agriculture. From water to warehousing, to seeds, to post-harvest, we need a modernization program. This is very critical for us,â€ Yap emphasized.
The warehouses and more drying facilities will help save the farm wastage.
Even without adding more ricefields, converting the wastage into output will already be additional produce.
â€œBuilding more warehouses and more drying facilities can spare the 15-percent wastage at current rate. Immediately you save 15 percent on you national import volume by building drying facilities,â€ Yap said.
This is the reason, Yap wants to pass the grains modernization act that will cover all support measures to ensure stability of the grains industry in the country.
It includes subsidy for water, subsidy for seeds, and crop insurance.
â€œWhy our farmers cannot rise from poverty. When the typhoon comes, ricefields are damaged.Â We need a national insurance for agriculture, then we need post-harvest and drying facilities and we need to do it now because by 2017 we no longer have protection,â€ Yap said.
Yap also proposed a bill to provide subsidy to farmers, like water irrigation rights wherein the irrigation facilities should be the direct subsidy to the farmers.
â€œWater is free but unfortunately, the irrigation facilities that we built is not free. You used money to build irrigation channels and irrigation canals.Â That is why the issue is if we want to charge our farmers irrigation fees then it should be in the concept of maintaining fees not as payment to debt. For many years, many of our farmers are being charged for irrigation facilities like â€œutangâ€. And thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m trying to convince the National Irrigation Administration to give up.Nasabtan nako na dili naman libre ang pagtukod sa atongÂ irrigation facilities. ButÂ di naman dapat utang saÂ farmers,â€ Yap explained.
To address poverty is to address the plight of farmers, according to Yap.
â€œThat is one great motivation for me to go back to Congress. I want to pass that legislation to help our farmers. When you talk about poverty in the Philippines, youâ€™re talking about rural poverty. Itâ€™s not urban poverty. When you say povertyÂ karonÂ in the Philippines,Â mga kabus, itâ€™sÂ mga mag-uuma,â€Â Yap added.