“Food on the table” has long been a potent image for our common vision of abundant life for all. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines consistently affirms that food security is a basic right of every Filipino. When this right is recognized and upheld, people are able to participate meaningfully and productively in creating a healthy and vibrant society.
When President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Republic Act No. 11203, known as the Rice Liberalization Law on February 14, 2019, the food security of the nation was threatened. Though the law purports to aim to reduce the price of rice by removing quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replacing these restrictions with tariffs, the first six months of the implementation has resulted in steep and steady declines in farm-gate prices for palay. These have fallen to as low as Php 7.00 per kilo in Central Luzon, which essentially confines the farmers to little, if any, profit from their harvest. Unlike the previous year, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data shows a continuous weekly drop in relative rice prices starting on the first week of February which proves to be our farmers’ bane. Those who grow the food are not earning enough to feed themselves and their families.
Thus, the stability of our nation’s rice growers is in jeopardy. RA 11203 is undermining the agricultural sector which then fuels abject hunger, massive displacement, and chronic unproductivity as well as joblessness for those who are no longer able to make a living from growing rice.
When our food producers are the ones immensely suffering from hunger, we should be ashamed. This is a clear manifestation of the prevailing and deep-seated inequality in our country. We denounce this destructive law that has negatively affected the lives of those who feed our families and our nation.
Our ability to feed ourselves as a nation should be a priority. We should seek to build a healthy economy where we are not dependent on foreign nations for the very staple food that nourishes our bodies. Our farmers must be encouraged and equipped to provide the food needed by our kababayans. In this way, our nation will grow stronger and we will take another step toward making life in its fullness a pulsating reality.
We, as women of faith, affirm that Filipinos must embrace and assert their inalienable right to food and food security. As our rice farmers are suffering, we reiterate our commitment in journeying with them in their struggle for land, rights and dignity of life.
We entreat our churches to join the call to repeal RA 11203. The government should instead implement a genuine agrarian reform program that distributes land to the tillers and encourages rice producers and other farmers in their productive participation in the economy, as providers of food for every Filipino table.
*This statement was approved by the 25th General Convention of NCCP last November 25 – 28, 2019 at Lutheran Center, Sta. Mesa, Manila.