June 5, 2012
The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today warned that the country’s rice industry is about to face the wrath of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the so-called “Special Treatment for Rice, also known as the quantitative restriction (QRs)” is set to expire on June 30.
The QRs on rice under the WTO allows the Philippines to limit the volume of rice that can be imported by the government every year, preventing a possible deluge of rice imports. However, the current QR on rice, approved by WTO in 2006, is scheduled to end this June. The Aquino government sought the extension but apparently failed to secure an extension due to United States opposition.
KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said “the Aquino government’s failure to clinch an extension of the QRs underscores the WTOs undemocratic character and its one-sidedness in favour of advanced capitalist countries.”
“Come June 30, the Filipino peasantry and the rice industry will face the WTOs wrath and the lies of the WTOs so-called ‘free trade’ regime will be exposed,” Flores said.
“The Aquino government’s boasts that the country will no longer import rice next year appears true since imported rice will now enter the country without tariffs, unhampered and limitless,” says Flores.
He said “the removal of the QRs on rice is tantamount to the WTO clipping the power of the government to control the influx of imported rice in the local market.”
“Monopoly pricing, rice price manipulation and speculation will be the name of the game. We anticipate the worsening of land-grabbing, land-use conversion, rice import dependency, hunger and poverty,” says Flores.
The Philippines wants the protectionist policy extended for three years or until 2015. It filed the request with the WTO on Nov. 18, 2011. During the negotiations for extending the QR on to 2012, the Philippines agreed to increase its minimum access volume (MAV) for rice to 350,000 metric tons (MT) as a concession.
However, the United States’ opposed the Philippines’ petition to the WTO if the Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order 22 (AO 22) is not rescinded. The DA’s AO 22 set rules and regulations on the handling of frozen and chilled meat and meat products in order to better ensure quality and safety.
“The US’ opposition on our bid to extend the QRs on rice betrays US arrogance and underscores the need for the Philippines to withdraw from the WTO,” the KMP said. #