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Digong fun to watch

September 11, 2019 - Wednesday 4:09 AM by Jimmy Laking

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President Digong is fun to watch. Like the hottest basketball team today in the ongoing FIBA World cup, Apo Digong is doing all the right moves and for the right reasons.

A week before he ordered released heinous crime inmates to surrender or face a manhunt, he ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy palay from local rice growers.

This is a stroke of genius. First, this was in response to decades-old clamor of farmers for government to share in the burden of production in the face of a stranglehold imposed by hoarders.

Hoarders are a dime a dozen and their presence can be easily spotted in the rice-producing provinces through their bodegas that also act as their buying fronts.

They do not only dictate the price, they also manipulate supply, squeezing the most from both the producer and the consumer, with the government straddling the fence. This explains why despite government intervention in the form of machinery, improved rice varieties, and other inputs, the farmer has barely enough to sustain his family at the end of the day. How much more if he is renting the land as you would find in most production areas? What is left to send children to school?

I think this is what President Duterte saw and it rankled him that government is so near yet so far insofar as actual tillers are concerned.

President Duterte’s response settles no doubt where his heart is. In his own words, it was all right if in doing so the government does not stand to gain because this is balanced by its ability to collect taxes. What is important is that farmers are no longer doing it solo but have government in the role of a big brother, to back their play.

In the absence of an enabling law that mandates the Philippine government to provide outright subsidy to rice growers, this intervention on the part of the NFA sizes up as a pro-poor and pro-people approach that should be institutionalized.

Not surprisingly, this is the same solution hammered out by the province of Nueva Ecija to address the concerns of its rice growers.

In a bid to cushion what it termed as the impact of the rice tariffication law to farmers, the provincial government has allotted P300 million to procure play at a floor price higher than those dangled by traders.

Just two weeks after, Isabela province allotted P450 million, Pangasinan P300 million, and Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and La Union at P200 million each to bankroll direct purchasing of palay from their farmers.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the funds would help farmers cope with falling grain prices.

 “Using the current national palay harvest average of roughly four MT per hectare, the P1.6 billion additional fund from the six provinces could make about 27,000 small rice farmers and their families happy,” he said.

Dar revealed he has also reached out to the other 24 rice producing provinces to follow suit.

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