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Business Mirror : BBM wants NFA back to ensure price stability

News & Interviews
6 December 2021

By Business Mirror

PRESIDENTIAL aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. wants to amend the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law to restore the National Food Authority (NFA) as the top regulator of the country’s rice industry to ensure stability of palay prices.

Marcos said he will suspend the RTL law, a legislation enacted by the Duterte administration in 2019 that deregulated the rice industry, if he gets elected as President in next year’s national elections. The NFA was created during the reign of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.

Marcos said he wants to bring back the “original functions” of the NFA that were stripped away by the RTL law, which were regulatory and price stability mandates. The RTL law or Republic Act 11203 stripped away most of the NFA’s regulatory functions, reducing the state-run authority to a buffer stocking agency.

“We cannot subsidize the price [for farmers]. I think the NFA can still go back to its original function and stabilize the price for the local market. I do not think that is regarded as a subsidy but a price stabilization—we can argue with the WTO [World Trade Organization], I think there is a possibility there,” he said at a virtual forum hosted by an alliance of agriculture industry groups on Monday.

“The NFA should return to its functions as a regulatory and price stabilization agency rather than just an importation agency,” he added.

‘Too dependent’ on imports

Marcos noted that the RTL law had many “unintended consequences” that are now “ravaging” the agriculture sector.

“I understand that during the crisis, the pandemic, that our government decided to use importation to maintain the price of rice, and that’s been effective. But the problem with importation and rice tariffication law, it ravages the local agriculture sector,” he said.

Marcos wants the policy direction of prioritizing importation over local production to stop, deeming it detrimental to farmers’ lives.

“I remember last year, suddenly there was a notice from the Department of Agriculture [DA] saying that we should prioritize importation…. Where does that kind of thinking come from? Why?” he said.

“What possible reasons do you want to prioritize importation before the local [production], especially in the middle of a pandemic? That is something we have to attend to,” he added.

Marcos claimed the Philippines has become “too dependent” on importation to meet its food supply needs, which he pointed out is “worrisome.”

“We can consider over 30 decades of diminution of our agriculture and our increasing dependence on importation is something that is worrisome. We cannot simply continue to do this,” he said.

“When Covid-19 came, it became sharply clear that we really have a problem with our food supply chain. We have to figure this out. We cannot continue just doing this. We must have a strategic food supply. We must not be dependent on importation,” he added.

Image courtesy of Roy Domingo/BM