Saturday, April 12, 2008

GMA's Measures on Rice Crisis Won't Work, Promotes Starvation - BAYAN USA

News Release
April 10, 2007

Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:

GMA's Measures on Rice Crisis Won't Work, Promotes Starvation
Fil-Ams Call on Arroyo to Control the Price of Rice in the Philippines

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of over 12 Filipino organizations in the US, criticized the Arroyo government for lifting the 300,000 metric ton (MT) rice quota for foreign traders as a measure to resolve the growing rice crisis. It also called on Arroyo to control the rising price of rice throughout the country and foreign trading rice cartels.

"Rice is the staple food for over 86 million Filipinos and other countries in the world. This problem will affect over half the world's population because of the global neoliberal trade framework," states Chito Quijano, Chair of BAYAN USA.

Known for its picturesque rice terraces, the Philippines has produced quality rice as a major export for decades. But low productivity due to a backwards agricultural sector and neoliberal trade policies that enforce land conversion have left the rice-exporting country dependent on foreign rice to feed its local population.

The Philippines has now been dependent on rice importation from neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, who are also suffering there own respective rice crises. Because of uncontrollable demand overseas, both countries are placing restrictions on its rice export to prioritize local consumption. The overall food crisis has sparked rice riots and militarized rice cartels throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where rice hoarding is now taking place.

"Pretty soon, our families in the US will be sending home bags of rice in our balikbayan boxes because our relatives can no longer afford rice in the market," Quijano added.

The Arroyo government's response has been to lift the existing quota on rice imports and further liberalize rice importation for foreign traders, minimizing the local government's ability to intervene on behalf of the local population.

"This won't solve the problem because it ignores the deeper problem of the agricultural sector. Without due industrialization of the agricultural sector, the problem won't go away, but will be aggravated. In fact, giving more power to foreign traders will make the price of rice skyrocket, and the Filipino people, without any spending power, will starve," Quijano added.

In the past month alone, the price of food products in the Philippines have skyrocketed over 8%, according to independent the think tank IBON Philippines. According to the National Food Authority, even the price of local rice in the Philippines will most likely increase from it's current P18.25 per kilo peg. This is leaving the predominantly impoverished Filipino population with limited options for basic sustenance.

BAYAN USA criticizes that the Arroyo government can't be relied upon to advocate on behalf of the Filipino people's needs anymore, but will instead implement policies that will only serve itself and its cronies.

The alliance emphasized the importance of more Filipino-Americans educating themselves about the Philippine rice crisis on a nationwide scale, as the crisis is a major contributor to heightening political instability in the Philippines and for their loved ones back home.

"The less food there is in the Philippines, the more the Arroyo government will turn to overseas Filipinos for an economic solution," Quijano added.

But massive hunger also breeds widespread desire for social and political change in any country.

"Arroyo's past corruption is still at play. Many of her so-called national projects that hoarded billions in public funds were all schemes to for her cronies to pocket the money. Those funds could have been used to genuinely improve the agricultural sector and set the Philippines in the right path towards food self-sufficiency," Quijano ended. ###

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