MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday called on the Departments of Finance and Agriculture to release the P6 billion cash compensation for rice farmers this December.
During the bicameral conference committee meeting, Pangilinan said the release of the compensation will be a gift for rice farmers who were affected by the influx of imported rice in the local market.
“They need this reparation now,” he said.
In November, Pangilinan filed Senate Bill 1191 seeking to augment the 2019 budget with P6 billion to provide cash transfer from unprogrammed funds to rice farmers.
The senator believes the cash transfer will give them a lifeline to continue farming following the effects of the implementation of the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act, which imposes a minimum 35-percent tariff on rice imports in lieu of quantitative restrictions (QRs).
Since the passage of the law, farmgate prices of palay have plunged to as low as P7 to P10 per kilo in some provinces, while the price of rice dropped by 2.9 percent, and the price of palay by 17.48 percent.
The drop in farmgate price of palay has resulted in huge income losses for rice farmers and the industry, now estimated around P60 billion, and projected to double by yearend.
The liberalization of rice imports, while intended to give the country a steady supply, has led to declining palay farmgate prices in many rice-producing areas, according to Pangilinan.
“Hindi kasalanan ng ating mga magpapalay ang nangyayaring pagguho ng kanilang kabuhayan. Kailangan isalba natin ang pagpapalay dito sa atin, dahil kung hindi, tayo ring lahat na kumakain ng bigas ang sa huli ay magdudusa at kakapusin sa bigas,” Pangilinan said
(The damage to their livelihood is not our farmers’ fault. We need to save our rice farmers because if not, all of us who consume rice will, in the end, suffer and face rice shortage.)
The lawmaker said releases from the proposed supplemental fund will be made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) directly to the Department of Agriculture (DA), which shall make available the fund to the farmers.
The fund will be effective until December 31, 2020.
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintains it is not stopping the issuance of permits to import rice.
“Hindi namin pinapa-stop (We are not stopping the importation.) We are implementing the law properly,” Secretary William Dar said.
Instead, the Department made the guidelines stricter which include inspection of storage houses.
On Tuesday (November 19), President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of rice importation because it is currently harvest time in the country.
According to the Federation of Free Farmers, stricter guidelines of rice importation is similar to stopping the process.
But they argue that the measure is just temporary while rice exporters are completing their requirements.
“In the meantime, na hindi sila maka-comply tigil muna ang export nila sa atin (In the meantime that they cannot comply, they need to stop exporting to us),” explained the farmers’ group’s Chairman Leonardo Montemayor.
The DA, meanwhile, will investigate farmers’ cooperatives and organizations who are using dummies in order to proceed with their importations.
“We will now look at three years of their business engagements kung may financial capability ba (if they have the financial capability),” Dar said.
“Mayroon ba silang warehouses? So lahat po ng pag-i-igting na iyon (Do they have warehouses? So we will intensify everything),” he added.
Dar said the President also wants to increase the buffer stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA) from 15 days to 30 days.
This would require the agency to purchase more palay from local farmers.
The NFA was also ordered to sell not lower than 20,000 sacks of rice per day.
Likewise, the unconditional cash transfer for farmers affected by the decreasing price of rice brought about by the rice tariffication law will be also be expanded to three years. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)
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