Isko Moreno courts Tarlac farmers' support with vow to cut imports

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2021 02:25 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2021 06:45 PM

Presidential aspirant Mayor Isko Moreno meets with residents and farmers in Barangay Banaba, Tarlac City on October 21, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Presidential aspirant Mayor Isko Moreno meets with residents and farmers in Barangay Banaba, Tarlac City on October 21, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

TARLAC CITY (2nd UPDATE) — Aksyon Demokratiko's 2022 standard bearer Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday wooed the support of farmers by vowing to establish more cold storage facilities in agricultural towns if he wins next year's presidential race.

The cold storage facilities will be built on land owned by the National Food Authority (NFA), Domagoso said during a dialogue in this city's Barangay Banaba when asked how he plans to reduce farmers' spoilage and improve their revenues especially during the typhoon season.

"Ang NFA ay patungkol sa bigas, pero marami silang lupain," he said.

(The NFA focuses on rice, but they have a lot of land.)

"Magtatag ako ng cold storage facility para sa 2 industriya, gulay at isda, para magkaroon ng malalagakan 'yung mga sobrang na-produce," he said.

(I will build cold storage facilities for two industries, vegetables and fish, so that there will be a place where you can store excess produce.)

While rice importation cannot be totally shunned due to the Rice Tariffication Act (RTA), the government's procurement of the staple grain from other countries will be tightened under a Domagoso presidency, he said.

The RTA, which was signed into law in 2019, removed the quantitative limits placed on imported rice in exchange of a 35 percent tariff imposed on these foreign products.

"Kung wala tayong kakayanan pigilan 'yung quantity na ipapadala sa atin, pahihirapan ko sila sa quality," Domagoso said.

(If we do not have the ability to control the quantity entering the country, we will tighten the quality checks.)

"Binigyan ng karapantan ang estado na siguraduhin na 'yung papasok na bigas ay malinis, mabango, ligtas. Doon natin dadalihin.”

(The state has the right to ensure that rice being imported to the country is clean, fresh and safe. That's where we'll hit them.)

The government will keep 30-days worth of rice reserves in case of emergency, he said.

The Manila-born presidential hopeful was met with applause when he took a swipe at certain politicians who passed the RTA into law.

"Ang lakas ng loob magsalita na, 'Tulungan ang magsasaka, tulungan ang agrikultura.' 'Yun pala, tulungan malugi para maging subdivision na lang ang sakahan ninyo," he said.

(They have the guts to say, 'Help the farmers, help agriculture.' But in reality, they want to help you become bankrupt so that they can turn your farmlands into subdivisions.)

A Domagoso administration will also back the establishment of a Department of Fisheries, he said.

Under the current setup, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources remains under the Department of Agriculture. Several bills have been filed to separate the 2 agencies.

After Domagoso ended his dialogue with the farmers, Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap reminded his constituents to be more discerning when choosing who to vote for in the upcoming national polls. 

"Dadating ang kandidato, sasabihin libre bahay, gobyerno may sagot, pero utang natin lahat yan," he said.

(Candidates will come, and tell us that they will give us free houses courtesy of the government, but they'll charge that to our national debt.)

"Ine-educate ko lang kayo na hindi lahat ng matatamis na salita ay puwede nating paniwalaan," he said.

(I am just educating you that we should not believe all sweet promises.)

Yap - a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition - did not directly campaign against Domagoso, saying that it is the responsibility of local officials to bring all national contenders closer to the voters.

"Ang namimili ng presidente ay ang mahihirap," he said.

(The president will be determined by the poor.)

"Kahit gaano pa kalaki ang pera ni mayor, ni governor, you will choose the next president."

(No matter how much funds a mayor or a governor has, you will choose the next president.)


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Meanwhile, another presidential aspirant, former Senator Bongbong Marcos Jr., called on Congress to suspend the excise tax on fuel amid surging oil prices.

It may significantly slash gasoline prices by P10 per liter and diesel products by P6 per liter, while kerosene will likely go down by P5 per liter and LPG will be reduced by P3 per kilogram, Marcos said in a statement.

"Amending the oil deregulation law with the intent of addressing the issue of runaway oil prices will take some time. This move to suspend the excise tax makes sense and will have an immediate positive impact on our people," he said.

The statement said Marcos on Wednesday met with different transport groups to discuss the impact of rising fuel prices on their livelihood.

"We need to do something about this issue urgently because one sector that will be gravely affected has been suffering for the longest time in this pandemic. Transport workers and operators who depend on their daily operations for their livelihood are already in dire straits," he said.

The defeated 2016 vice presidential candidate also called on the Department of Energy to study the restoration of the defunct Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) to cushion the economy from the inflationary effects of prolonged high oil prices.

Signed into law in 1998, Republic Act 8479 otherwise known as the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998 aimed to liberalize and deregulate the oil industry and ensure a competitive market.

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, for his part, urged Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to suspend the implementation of the excise tax on fuel, "given the unabated increase of the prices of fuel resulting in a heavy burden on the transport sector and the public in general."

According to him, the TRAIN law allows the Department of Finance to exercise that option "upon the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) under certain conditions."

Lacson is also eyeing the presidency next year.

The DOE had explained that the surge in oil prices was mainly due to a sudden increase in global demand as more countries start opening their economies. 

Slow production and stockpiling for winter of some countries also jacked up demand, the agency added.