Rice and Proclamation 572

  • 8 September 2018

Source: Manila Bulletin
8 Sep 2018

Proclamation No. 572 seeking to revoke the grant of amnesty given to Senator Antonio Trillanes and the soaring inflation primarily due to the rising price of rice, are the two most important concerns today. They have already created unrest in many quarters and have undermined faith in the capacity of government to address these concerns.

The first clearly challenges the rule of law, violates the Constitution, and like in Senator de Lima's case, was an attempt at vendetta against the most outspoken critics of PDu30. It was done while the President was out of the country. The timing of release of the proclamation was done while the Senate committee presided on by Sen. Trillanes was investigating Solicitor-General Calida for the controversial ownership of a security agency. Thus, the proclamation and arrest order and the Senate hearing happened at the same time. And the two events were simultaneously shown on television.

The Executive proclamation was accompanied by an order to arrest him but this was preempted by the intervention of the Senate which insisted on its prerogative of keeping Trillanes in the Senate premises.

It now appears in all reports that Trillanes was accused of not filing amnesty and that he and his co-accused had not admitted guilt. They were wrong as there was proof that Trillanes had filed an application for amnesty, and that he and his co-officers had admitted guilt. Former President Aquino himself said that he had given amnesty to Trillanes and the other Navy officers.

This unjust exercise of power is playing out while the people are groaning from the effect of soaring prices of food. We have not had this kind of inflation in the past. Statistics showed that In 2015, our inflation rate was only 1.41%; in 2017 it was 4.1 and now it is the highest among our Asean neighbors – 6.4% which is a nine-year high.

The price of rice is blamed for the crisis. Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of Agriculture says there is no rice shortage. If the administration doe not do anything about the rice crisis despites the growing anger of the public, there is something wrong.

Farmers are at the mercy of traders as the National Food Authority refuses to buy palay from farmers saying their palay has moisture content. But this is just a mere excuse. Traders are hoarding rice. We have a rice cartel, a garlic cartel, an onion carter, Sen. Villar noted.

The solution? Government must enforce a price cap and traders must sell rice at a reasonable cost.

It's about time that government, specifically NFA or whatever structure is set up to replace it, start being proactive and to utilize existing research in policy-making on rice and other food security concerns. Let us trace the roots of the problem before it gets worse.

Arsenio Balisacan et al, in a chapter in a Food and Agriculture publication, Rice Crisis, Market Policies, Food Security, edited by David Dowe (2010), they recommend short and medium term to long-term strategies – For short term, expanded conditional cash transfer to poor farmers complemented with a targeted rice subsidy program in conflict and depressed areas, reduce tariffs and bring in more private traders to participate in importing or marketing of rice, and for NFA to focus on better stock input.

For long term solutions, since the food crisis is a result of imbalance between demand and supply, and to keep pace with demand and growth, to (1) develop rice technologies appropriate for local conditions; (2) provide incentives for human resource development; (3) overhaul of rice extension programs from top-down to LGU-led development; (4) irrigation development; and (5) reducing cost of doing business by investing in connectivity transport, telecommunication and removing efficiency-inhibiting regulation.

A 2016 doctoral thesis by Paul Balesky of the University of Queensland in Australia, further states that few governments have allowed the domestic rice sector to be influenced by global market supply and demand factor. Rather, governments had intervene in rice markets by providing low prices for rice and giving some support for the livelihood of farmers.

As far back as 1975, noted rural sociologist, Gelia Castillo had written "All in a Grain of Rice, a Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research publication, to highlight the impact of modern rice varieties and the new technology of the farmer. All in a Grain of Rice gives a highly objective analysis of income distribution, employment, labor and migration and well as participatory development."

Because of the enormity of the rice and food security issues, we encourage our government planners and those involved in the production, market, and supply chain to use research knowledge to transform the present food security system.