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Farmers’ groups call for Balisacan’s resignation

MANILA, Philippines — Various farmers’ groups on Sunday demanded the immediate resignation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved the lower tariff on imported rice from 35 percent to 15 percent, in a bid to bring down the retail price of the staple.

At a press conference, former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor said that peasant organizations will personally write to President Marcos to remove Balisacan from his post.

“We will continue various types of protest actions, signature campaigns; and the visit to NEDA will not be very friendly, as we will reiterate our call for the removal of Secretary Bali_sacan,” Montemayor said.

Montemayor belied the claim of Balisacan that the retail price of rice will go down with the lower tariff on imported rice.

“The real world is very different from the imaginary world of Secretary Balisacan and NEDA. That’s why, NEDA should change its name to ‘national importation and dreamland authority’ or ‘NIDA.’ The P29 (per kilo price) of rice is more imaginary. It’s more aspirational than real. It does not happen in real life,” he added.

According to Montemayor, during the meeting with Finance Secretary Ralph Recto last week, he and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. vowed to arrange a meeting between Marcos and leaders of various peasant organizations.

“We are working hard to get a face-to-face meeting with the President. We have to tell him that we want Secretary Balisacan to step down. We owe it to the President – and the entire Filipino people – to make these views known to him,” Montemayor said.

He added that a temporary restraining order will be filed in court once an executive order on the reduced tariff is formally issued.

Montemayor noted that the forgone revenues for the Bureau of Customs are at P70 billion, while local palay farmers will lose at least P88 billion annually.