Militants march to US embassy, slam WTO

MEMBERS of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today marched to the embassy of the United States in Manila to call for the junking of the US-dominated World Trade Organization (WTO).

The protest action was launched a day before the so-called “special treatment for rice” enjoyed by the Philippines in the world trading system expires on June 30.

The special treatment or quantitative restrictions (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 secure an extension of the QRs underscores the political necessity for the country to pull-out from the WTO.”

“With the full-scale rice trade liberalization, the Filipino peasantry and the rice industry are now up against the killing impacts of the WTO,” Flores said.

He said “the removal of the QRs on rice is tantamount to the WTO undermining the sovereignty of the Philippine government and its powers to regulate and control the influx of imported rice in the local market.”

“Despite the boasts of the Aquino government of a bountiful harvest, another rice crisis is in the offing,” the KMP leader warned stressing that “with a zero-tariff regime, 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.”

The Philippine government 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opposed the Philippines’ petition to the WTO if the Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order 22 (AO 22) is not rescinded.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.

The KMP called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase the farm-gate prices of palay (unhusked rice) to P20 per kilo from the current NFA buying price of P17 per kilo.

“In light of this barefaced arrogance by the US, we challenge the DA and the NFA to use taxpayers’ money for the procurement of our local produce and immediately stop the importation of rice,” Ramos said.

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