The impact of the lifting of tariffs on imported rice on the lives of farmers took center stage in this year’s global action on violence against women and children in Manila dubbed “One Billion Rising.”
Women’s rights activists kicked off the campaign on Feb. 14 by performing a protest dance routine in several cities of the country to call attention to the condition of the agriculture sector.
Carleen Nomorosa of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines said women and children “suffer the most” because of government policies that affect poor farmers.
The protesters decried what they described as the country’s subservience to the dictates of the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Despite a strong public outcry, the Philippine government last year lifted importation tariffs on rice.
Data from independent think-tank Ibon Foundation revealed that 3.2 million metric tons of imported rice flooded the Philippine market last year, which is 40 percent higher than the previous importation.
It resulted in the steep plunge of farmgate prices of rice to as low as US $0.14 per kilogram. Rice production in the country costs at least US $0.24 per kilogram, according to farmers’ groups.
The drop on the prices has caused at least US$1.7 million income loss to the rice industry or about US$700 income loss per farmer last year.
Ibon Foundation said the rice liberalization policy is yet another indication of the government’s “long-time neglect and disregard of local rice production and agriculture in general.”
They also decried that rice producers and consumers should not be pitted against each other.
“Farmers and consumers have a common interest in the protection and strengthening of the domestic rice industry towards rice self-sufficiency,” read a statement from Ibon.
Joms Salvador, secretary general of women’s rights group Gabriela, said the lifting of importation tariffs on rice “worsened the already sorry state of farmers, especially women and children.”
Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan said the global campaign to end all forms of violence against women and children “calls us to proclaim our solidarity with all struggles.”
Students at the Benedictine girls’ school in Manila performed a dance routine to show “solidarity with the poor and oppressed sectors.”
Sister Mananzan said the country’s women’s rights movement has achieved so many victories in the past but has still “a long way to go and has to continue” fighting for everyone’s rights.
Mark Saludes contributed to this report.