HIGHER/DECENT LIVING WAGES
Senator Chiz Escudero is asking the government to come up with concrete measures to address the plight of the country’s impoverished farmers, who play a crucial role in achieving food security and self-sufficiency.
Escudero said the government should begin with ensuring decent wages to close to 12 million farm workers, comprising almost one-third of the country’s entire labor force.
“Measures must be drawn up to ensure decent wages to farm workers and improve their status in society,” Escudero said. “This is the best way to make our country’s economic growth inclusive because it will target the most impoverished sector in our society.”
Escudero noted that a significant proportion of farm workers in the country live just at or below the poverty line.
“In order to ensure the sustainability of the agriculture sector and food security, it becomes imperative for the government to safeguard the interest of farmers by assuring them decent levels of income and sustainable livelihoods,” he added.
Escudero underscored the need to provide farmers with better infrastructure and access to funding programs that would enable them to produce food as efficiently as possible and feed the country’s rapidly expanding population.
The senator issued the statement after Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that not being able to implement a wage increase for local farmers was the country’s biggest missed opportunity under the Aquino administration.
Latest figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the agriculture sector employed 11.84 million individuals in 2013, representing 31 percent of the national employment.
In the first half of 2013, the daily nominal wage rates were P256.52 for palay farm workers and P206.04 for corn farm workers.
Escudero said the dire conditions of Filipino farmers merely highlight the sorry state of the country’s agricultural sector.
“It’s sad to say but agriculture remains to be a poor man’s sector. Despite being a huge asset to national development, agriculture has been the most neglected and least understood sector of the nation’s economy,” Escudero lamented.
Escudero was confident that helping farmers improve their living condition standards would eventually result in increased production of locally grown staple and steady supply of agricultural products.
Search For Adulterated Rice Importer
On the other hand, Senator Escudero is urging the National Food Authority (NFA) to look into its list of private companies to whom it has issued permits to import rice following reports that “fake rice” is circulating in Davao.
As per Presidential Decree 4 and Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, the NFA is the only government entity allowed to import rice. Private importers who wish to bring in rice are required to get their permits from the NFA.
“The NFA holds the key to uncovering the source of this adulterated rice. It should look into the records of the companies to whom it has issued permits and immediately ban from importing those behind this scheme,” Escudero said.
“The volume of imported rice in the Philippine has been increasing steadily over the years. In 2014, the government increased the volume of rice that can enter the country at a reduced tariff of 35 percent from 350,000 MT to 805,000 MT.
Most of the rice imports enter through Manila’s ports but a small number of importers bring in their goods via Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.
“If there is fake rice in Davao, who’s to say fake rice won’t reach the markets of Metro Manila and other cities?” Escudero said.“The poor are especially vulnerable because they are the ones who are always looking for cheap buys. We must do our best, collectively, to get to the bottom of this problem. We have to protect Filipino families,” Escudero said.
He said the emergence of adulterated rice should be a wakeup call for the government to strengthen its fight against smugglers as goods like “synthetic rice” likely come from illegal importers.
“The Bureau of Customs should really do a better job of running after smugglers. It’s not enough that they auction off smuggled goods,” the senator said.
Synthetic rice, which supposedly contains plastic resin, has been bought by consumers from barangays Mintal, Buhangin and Cabiantan in Davao City, as well as Sta. Cruz town, Davao del Sur. /MP