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US blocks Ph rice self-sufficiency


BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
 
 
The United States preaches the “free trade” dogma but remains its chief violator by blocking the Philippines’ bid for rice self-sufficiency.
 
Given the output Filipino farmers have the past two years, the Department of Agriculture (DA) in 2011 foresees the country attaining self-sufficiency and stopping rice imports during the watch of President Noynoy Aquino by 2013 at the earliest or 2015.
 
In Western Visayas (WV), DA regional director Larry Nacionales echoes that enthusiasm. WV, comprising Capiz, Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental and Guimaras provinces, has been shipping rice to other regions.
 
However, the Philippines must climb uphill to attain that goal because something more sinister and arrogant than god almighty blocks the way – the US.
 
That did not come from me but the DA grumbling that its “doable” goal is being reduced to a nightmare.
 
The Philippines applied for “quantitative restrictions” on rice imports with the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the latter granted. The privilege ends this June. The country seeks another three years extension.
 
The Department of Agriculture issued (DA) AO 22 that imposes technical requirements, such as proper labeling, on imported frozen meat. The US disliked it.
 
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Philippines (KMP) in “US blocking Philippine bid to regulate rice imports – KMP” by Ina Alleco R. Silverio (bulatlat.com) calls that as “blackmail”. 
 
 “The US’ opposition … betrays US arrogance and underscores the need for the Philippines to withdraw from the WTO,” says KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos.
 
DA Secretary Proceso Alcala identifies the strongest opponent to the country’s petition as the US.
 
The KMP welcomes restriction on rice imports as boost to Filipino rice farmers. It will protect them from cheap rice from foreign producers heavily subsidized by their own governments.
 
The Obama administration opposes the Philippine move which  makes him no better than his predecessors and their bosses in the US military-industrial complex, who want poor countries like the Philippines to remain decrepit and import dependent.
 
The US is retaliating to AO 22 for being “biased” against imported meat as it applies only to frozen and not fresh meat.
 
The US profited from its meat exports to the Philippine. In 2010 it imported more than $100 million of meat and poultry from the US, higher by some 40 to 50 percent over the previous year.
 
The US bullies the Philippines into suspending AO 22 by voting against its petition to the WTO to extend quantitative restriction on rice.
 
The three-year extension will “protect and encourage Filipino farmers to increase their yield and allow the Philippines to one day become rice-sufficient or at the earliest by 2013”, says KMP’s Ramos.
 
AO 22 is a measure to protect the health of Filipinos. The US opposition “means that (it) considers even health safety precautions as barrier to trade and their dumping activities,” Ramos adds. “Instead of bringing it up in the negotiating table, the US has resorted into arm-twisting and blackmail. This concretely shows that there is no room for negotiations in the WTO and exposes the undemocratic character of this US-dominated multi-lateral trade body.”
 
Ramos adds the US’ move to block “the country’s petition to extend the quantitative restriction …  came in the wake of Filipino farmers’ clamor to increase the farm-gate price of palay (unhusked rice)”.
 
The KMP wants the Philippine government to increase the farm-gate prices of palay to P20 ( $0.56) per kilo from the current NFA buying price of P17 ($0.40) per kilo.
 
“Given this show of shameless arrogance by the US, we demand that the DA and the NFA to use taxpayers’ money to procure local produce and immediately stop the importation of rice,” Ramos says.
 
The Philippines’ import of 100,000 metric tons (MT) of rice in 1994 rose to more than two million MT in 1998.
In 2007, its rice import was 1.8 million MT. By year-end its stock was at 2.17 million MT, but it further boosted the stockpile by 34.74 percent so that by 2008, its stored rice went up to 2.4 million MT.  Despite the over supply, government in 2010 ordered 2.45 million MT more.
 
Under the WTO-Agreement on Agriculture, the Philippines has only 350,000 MT in minimum access volume (MAV). The over-importation  hurt Filipino farmers, Ramos explains. 
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