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Ex-DA chief supports amendments to RTL, Makakalikasan environmental group prefers nuclear energy than coal

Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr., Journalist Banat News, The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Philippines News Agency, Philippine Canadian Inquirer, PTV (Philippines), Palawan News, HTDS Content Services

SAN JUAN CITY – Former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo “Leony” Montemayor on Friday (June 7) expressed his support to the amendments in the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) while the Makakalikasan environmental group is preferring nuclear energy than coal.

Photo by: Nolan Ariola

In The Agenda Media Forum hosted by Dexter Ganibe, former Agriculture Secretary and now Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) Chairman Leony Montemayor, in general, the FFF is supporting the review and changes in the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) which in 1997 lifted all the quantitative limits in agricultural products.

The NEDA Board chaired by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. on June 3, 2024 decided to reduce the rice tariff rate by 15 percent which eventually may result in the reduction of the price of rice of from Ph6 to Php7 per kilo.

Under the RTL, Montemayor said, their policy is free importation of rice that will continue and the National Food Authority (NFA) was prevented from intervening in the price of rice.

However, Montemayor, in the proposed RTL amendments are the “registration power”, “licensing power” and the “price stabilization power” of the NFA.

On the “power of importation”, in the sense that it is very expensive to subsidize rice and it depends on how much budget will be given to the NFA to subsidize the same.

“We are supporting the proposal in the House to increase the RCEF (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) from PHP10 billion to PHP15 billion. In fact, in the Senate it was even proposed to increase it to PHP20 billion,” Montemayor said.

He noted that the government retreated in the importation of rice, although no one, but only the government can import rice.

The QR (Quantitative Restriction) was removed, which should be replaced with Tariff that was initially set at 50 percent but was reduced to 35 percent.

When the RTC was enacted into law, Montemayor said “the supply of rice literally deluged the market”, but today, the price of rice is very expensive.
“Even under the new RTL, the unlimited rice importation by the private rice traders will continue,” he said.

The FFF is supporting the proposal to again empower the NFA to import rice provided that they are targeted to benefit the “poorest of the poor”.
It is also proposed to restore to the NFA “visitorial/inspection powers” in so far as warehouses for rice are concerned.

The FFF Chairman would like President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. to tackle in his forthcoming SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address) food security and availability and affordability of agricultural products, even comprehensive land use policy, which was considered even during the time of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Montemayor noted that President Marcos certified as urgent the proposed bill on the amendments in the Rice Tariffication Law both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Montemayor slammed China for being too much aggressive in harassing Filipino fishermen in the WPS.

“Are we prepared? Do we have alternatives?” Montemayor said in case China would restrict the importation of agricultural products from the Philippines.

“Everyday caring for the fisheries and agriculture sector should be prioritized in life,” he added.

Makakalikasan Nature Party Philippines Secretary General Rommel Ortega commended the Ecosystem and Nature Capital Law and the case against China in the environmental destruction in the West Philippine Sea.

Ortega said that their environmental group is particularly concerned on the 15-point green agenda such as “green commune” where there is a concept of ownership in the community for their own work.

Included in the agenda is the planting of trees where at least 70 percent of the community is covered.
“We are also focused on ‘green technology’, where the new technology should be mechanical and clean with premium price,” Ortega said.

For example, a solar panel, which is expensive for a poor family, “but we want to move this project forward,” he said, adding that, “poor families should be given the opportunity to have their own solar panel.”

“We are fighting for national security in the WPS as we would like to maintain our cultural identity,” Ortega said.

He said that they are pursuing the filing of environmental charges against China for the destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines is second to Japan with the highest cost of power in Southeast Asian region.

In Marulas, Valenzuela City, Ortega said, the area is not environmentally clean and the price of rice is high, considering that it is geographically proximate to Bulacan, Bulacan or Central Luzon, which is the “Rice Grannary of the Philippines” where the price of rice is lower.

On the possibility of Nuclear Energy in the Philippines, nuclear energy is clean for the environment, however, what is being studied is how to address the nuclear wastes.

The mothballed US$1-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), also known as the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant 1 (PNPP1) in Morong, Bataan, was supposed to generate 600 megawatts of clean energy in the 1980s, but has become a “white elephant” because of the political upheaval.

Ortega cited the Long Mile incident and the Chernobyl accident such that the structural integrity and security should be taken into consideration first before going “full blast” to nuclear energy, although he said, nuclear energy is now being phased out in Germany.

He stressed that the government should look into the “mining situation” in Indonesia, which is the no. 1 producer of ore in the world, with respect to environmental issues and concerns.

On the forthcoming SONA, the Nature Party Philippines would like the return of the “endangered species”, the stabilization of the price of rice, and address the environmental issues and concerns.

Ortega also said they have “Green governance, including the agriculture. Green economy where the community is 70 percent covered by forest. We believe in the concept that globalization is already here.”

“We support the biking lanes for the community for health reasons and for being environment-friendly,” he said.#

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