Transcript of interview with Sen. Cynthia Villar on NFA, rice tariffication, bukbok sa rice, galunggong

Q: On rice crisis in Zamboanga

Villar: Nag-declare sila ng state of calamity at nag-price control sila. I think that’s the best way na siguradong susunod ang mga rice trader na huwag nilang gagawin iyon kasi I see no reason why it should increase to 75. Talagang ang puhunan natin ng rice by computation, max na ang 30, pwede pang 25 pag nabili ang P17/kilo na palay. There’s no reason why iyong puhunan mo ay 25 to 30, magiging 75 ka diba?

Q: Who is to be blamed bakit umabot sa ganito ang sitwasyon?

Villar: Kasi sa Philippines talaga, ang NFA is mandated to buy from the farmers at P17 para hindi at the mercy of traders and farmers. Parang mai-insure natin na palay can be bought at P17 per kilo and then imi-mill nila iyan, at after milling, ang rice ang puhunan nila ay around P25. So they sell it between P27 to P30. Syempre kapag sinell ng NFA ng P32, hindi maglalayo ang mga traders sa P32. But of course, nalaman natin a few months ago, sinabi nila na hindi sila nakapag-buffer stocking. And that started our problem with rice. Kasi wala namang bigas that can be sold at P32, so parang ang rice nagwala ang mga prices kasi it’s all in the hands of the private sector. At alam naman natin na sa Philippines, may rice cartel and that cannot be controlled at kung ano ang gusto nilang presyo, iyon ang ginagawa nila. So in a way, the NFA failed in its mandate. That’s why we are suffering like this.

Q: Iyong P17 na price, hindi daw siya kayang ma-justify kasi galing Manila iyong supply. Dahil nga nasanay daw ang Zamboanga na smuggled ang rice nila.

Villar: Kahit naman hindi smuggled, ganun din ang presyo, mas mababa pa. Remember, you can buy rice from abroad nang mas mura. And even if you pay taxes, it’s still competitive with the Philippines. Bakit nila sasabihin na dahil walang smuggling, nagmahal. Kapag smuggled ang laki ng kita nila dahil they don’t pay tariff. Pero maski sila mag-tariff, competitive pa rin ang price from Vietnam kasi even if we do tariffication, mura talaga ang rice sa Vietnam.

Q: Meron ba talagang liability ang taga NFA?

Villar: Iyon ang mandate mo, you failed in your mandate, what can you say?

Q: Dapat executive?

Villar: Kung ako ngayon, because they have failed in their mandate, bakit hindi na lang tayo mag price control ng rice? Kasi hindi naman malulugi ang mga rice traders dahil talagang ganoon ang puhunan nila. Mag price control ng rice. I don’t know how they can implement it, but I remember in previous years iyong DTI merong suggested retail price (SRP). And then they go around and chinecheck iyong hindi sumusunod sa SRP. Or mas better pa, mag-declare ng state of calamity and mag-impose ng price control sa rice. Kasi I don’t think malulugi sila kahit mag-price control.

Q: Temporary solution iyong price control?

Villar: Oo. Just like what Zamboanga did, nag-price control sila.

Q: What do you think of the statement of NFA na safe pa ring kainin ang rice na may bukbok?

Villar: Bakit sila bibili ng may bukbok? Masyado naman. Ang daming rice, may bukbok pa ang bibilhin?

Q: Will you challenge them na sila ang unang kumain?

Villar: Sila ang bumili ng may bukbok. Sila ang kumain. Kasi bakit ka naman bibili ng rice, may bukbok pa. Bakit naman lahat ng kamalasan sila ang gumagawa? Do you think it’s kamalasan or may diperensya talaga?

Q: Hindi ba time for Jason Aquino to resign?

Villar: Hindi naman siya nagre-resign. Ano ang gagawin natin?

Q: Dapat si Presidente, sibakin na sya?

Villar: Actually, we will go to another model of rice. We will go on tariffication of rice. Kasi in July of 2017, nag-expire na ang provision ng quantitative restriction on rice given to us by the WTO. So from then on, we are supposed to liberalize importation of rice and mag-tariffication tayo. Any day now, I will bring to the floor iyong tariffication of rice. Under that system, we will impose tariff on importation of rice. But ang pinakamalaking tariff na mailalagay natin for ASEAN like Vietnam, because there is an agreement din among ASEAN countries that the maximum is 35%, even if we impose 35% tariff on Vietnamese rice, mas mura pa rin ang Vietnamese rice kaysa sa Philippine rice. Kasi they produce rice at P6 per kilo of palay, we produce palay at P12 per kilo. So doble. If you impose 35% tariff, hindi enough. So DOF has agreed on the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which will be funded with P10 billion a year from the General Appropriations Act and this will be used to teach farmers how to mechanize and provide them machines. Because one of the biggest price differences between Vietnam and the Philippines is labor. Ang kanilang labor cost is P1.20 per kilo, tayo P4.60 per kilo. So a difference of P3.40. gusto nating tanggalin iyon, and that is mechanization. Anyway, the children of farmers in the Philippines do not want to plant rice anymore manually, so okay lang ang mechanization. Mas maa-attract sila sa farm nila kasi they will be operating machines. They will not be planting manually. So meron tayong rice transplanter, harvester, dryer, so we are more mechanized, we reduce the labor cost. Then another one is, the PhilRice will teach us how to produce iyong discovery from research na certified inbred seeds that can produce 6 metric tons per hectare, instead of 4. So iincrease ang production ng farmer nang 50%. That means their income will increase by 50%. Kapag nagawa natin iyon, I think we can compete with Vietnam easily, and that solves the problem. Ilalagay natin iyon sa batas, that this money will be used for mechanization, and this money will be used for production of seeds and hopefully, make our farmers competitive in the long run as soon as possible. Iyan ang bagong model, and under the model na liberalization, parang magiging irrelevant ang NFA. This is a new model. Years na na ang ginagamit natin ay NFA to stabilize the price of rice. This will be different na. This will be a new model.

Q: Iyong pag-iimport natin ng galunggong, katanggap-tanggap ba iyon?

Villar: Kung napapansin ninyo, bumababa talaga ang ating production ng wild catch, iyong galing sa ocean. Twenty years ago, they comprise 70% of our fish and 30% ang aquaculture. Today, it’s 50-50. 50% galing sa wild catch, 50% galing sa aquaculture. Ang prediction nga diyan by 2050, puro nga sa aquaculture, wala na iyong sa ocean because our ocean is overfished. Kasi kailangan ang ocean merong closed season. Iyong mga time na lumalaki ang isda, December to March, kailangan kino-closed season iyan para mapalaki ang mga isda. Kasi ano naman ang makukuha mo kung huhulihin mo ang fingerlings? What will you profit from it, kaliliit noon. So pabayaang lumaki at hulihin kapag malalaki na sila because you sell fish by the kilo. Bigyan na lang ng alternative livelihood iyong mga fishermen during the closed season. At iyong alternative livelihood na iyan, kapag nag-open season na, I don’t think iiwanan pa ng pamilya nila iyan. So dalawa pa ang income nila. And at the same time, another problem of the fish in the ocean are the plastic. There is a study by the University of Georgia that the biggest producers of plastic in the ocean are, 1) China; 2) Indonesia; 3) Philippines. They said that in 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and the fish will eat all the plastic and they will all die. And there will be no more fish in the ocean. Prediction nila iyan, hindi ko iyan prediction, UN FAO iyan. Ngayon lahat ay nagkukumahog to prevent the plastic from going to the ocean.

Q: Expected ang nangyari sa galunggong?

Villar: Bakit pa tayo mag-iimport, maghanap na lang tayo ng alternative kung sinasabi ninyong may formalin ang galunggong. Pwede naman tayong mabuhay nang walang galunggong. Kumain tayo ng gulay.

Q: May formalin daw?

Villar: Sabi ng DOH, meron daw. Sabi ng DA, wala daw. Para sigurado na lang, better safe than sorry, huwag na lang tayong kumain ng galunggong. Alangan namang sabihin ko sa inyo na kumain kayo ng galunggong, hindi natin alam kung sino ang nagsasabi ng totoo. Kung may mangyari sa inyo?

Q: Magkakaroon ng hearing ang committee ninyo tungkol dito?

Villar: Today, I have a hearing on fisheries not because of galunggong. Because there are congressmen who filed bills establishing fish hatcheries in their district; 12 of them. And so I have to hear it. In fairness to them, if they are fish-producing provinces, matulungan sila ng BFAR na magkaroon sila ng way of producing fingerlings, para dumami ang fish. Whether its in fish farming or in the ocean. Kasi pwede ka ring maghulog ng fish in the ocean. Maybe in the hearing we can ask them about galunggong.

Q: Maghi-hearing ba on rice crisis?

Villar: Wala pa daw nagpa-file ng resolution but we are always doing hearings about rice, we can continue kasi suspended lang ang hearing. We are looking at that.

Q: Paulit-ulit lang ang problema sa rice?

Villar: Oo, hindi ka naman susundin.

http://senate.gov.ph/press_release/2018/0828_villar2.asp