Farmers launch 'piso-piso' vs rice smuggling

Posted at 01/20/2014 2:41 PM

MANILA - Rice farmers, mostly from Northern and Central Luzon, launched a "piso-piso" campaign to raise money for the capture and prosecution of rice smugglers.

The farmers presented to Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday an initial fund of P55,000 as reward money for witnesses who can pinpoint smugglers.

“Kaming maliliit na magsasaka po'y nagkaisa na mag-ambag ng piso-piso bilang pabuya sa mga testigong magtuturo o tutulong sa paghuli ng mga rice smugglers. Tinawag po namin ang kampanyang ito na 'Piso-Piso ng Mamamayan Kontra Smuggling',” said Ofociano Manalo, President of the Confederation of Irrigators Association in Region 1.

Manalo said efforts to curb rice smuggling have led to an increase in prices of rice by local farmers.

"Halos isang taon nang maganda ang presyo ng palay dahil natigil ang walang habas na smuggling ng bigas sa bansa. Mula sa dating P14-P17 kada kilo ng palay, kami po'y nagtatamasa ngayon sa pinakamataas na pamimili ng aming ani sa kasaysayan, mula P21-22 per kilo,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oscar Legaspi of Arya Progresibo – Nueva Ecija also lambasted lawyer Argee Guevarra for making statements about rice smuggling including an alleged Quezon mafia involving Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

“Nangangamba kaming sa kapipilit ng mga tulad ni [lawyer Argee Guevarra] at kaalyado nito ay muli na namang dumagsa ang smuggled na bigas at muling malugmok ang aming industriya at tanging ikinabubuhay,” said

“Nakakagalit at nakakainsulto na ang nagtatanggol pa sa mga smugglers na tulad ng Goliath na si David Tan ay mga tinaguriang makabayang abugado tulad ni Argee Guevarra. Ayaw ba nilang kumita kahit kaunti ang mga magsasaka? Mas gusto ba nilang lagi na lang kaming mahirap?” Manalo added.

He said millions of concerned farmers nationwide are closely watching developments in the Senate and warned senators who will try to defend the smugglers.

He said farmers hope the inquiry will help in halting smuggling operations.

The Confederation of Irrigators Association and Arya Progresibo are member organizations of the umbrella group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura or SINAG.