The move by the Duterte regime to completely liberalize rice importation under the rice tarrification law will result in sharp loss of income and widespread displacement of rice farmers fuelling rural unrest. It is bound to generate conditions favorable for mass rescruitment into the New People’s Army (NPA) and intensification of the revolutionary armed struggle.
The complete liberalization of importation of rice is in line with policies set by the World Trade Organization. The policy is being pushed by the big capitalist countries such as the US and China which have been burdened by grains overproduction over the past several years.
The expected deluge of rice imports will result in further loss of income of rice farmers, especially tenants and farmworkers, who cannot compete with cheaper imported rice. It will result in dependence on imported rice and eventually high prices in the coming years.
The cost of producing rice in the Philippines remains high because of feudal land rent paid to landlords as well as by rising costs of fertilizers and other input, low productivity due to individual and small-scale production and lack of mechanization, as well as virtual absence of state subsidies in contrast to other countries.
In complete disregard of the peasant masses, the Duterte regime is deliberately killing local rice production in order to force the displacement of the peasants and pave the way for the conversion of rice lands. This is in line with Duterte’s much publicized “land distribution” which is a mere façade for grabbing farms and ancestral land and apportion these to big plantations, mining, energy, tourism and other big capitalist operations.
There will be widespread displacement of hundreds of thousands of rice farmers, especially in the provinces in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Panay, Far South Mindanao and other regions. This will cause further worsening in the state of rural employment which last year suffered more than a quarter of a million people job losses.
The peasant masses, especially rice tenant farmers who will suffer from Duterte’s rice import liberalization, must be aroused, organized and mobilized in great numbers in order to demand the repeal of the rice tarrification law and advance their struggle for genuine land reform.
Land reform under the Duterte regime is dead. The millions of peasants and farm workers who suffer from landlessness look up to the New People’s Army and the revolutionary movement to carry out genuine land reform.
The broad peasant masses being displaced by Duterte’s anti-people and anti-peasant liberalization policies must be rallied by all revolutionary forces to join the NPA and wage armed resistance.