Senator Cynthia Villar filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the implementation of the law lifting the quantitative restriction on rice importation and creating the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, has made it a point to prioritize the exercise of her committee’s oversight function on the implementation of the law enacted on February 14, 2019.

“We believe in this law and for the sake of our farmers, we want it to succeed.”

“This is the protection measure we have in place for our local farmers in a tariffied regime we find ourselves in following the expiration of the agreement with the World Trade Organization. We believe in this law and for the sake of our farmers, we want it to succeed,” the veteran legislator said.

Proposed Senate Resolution No. 39 directs a Senate inquiry into the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the rice tariffication law to closely monitor its implementation by the designated government agencies and to ensure that funds are allocated for the purpose actually intended.

Under RA 11203 which amends RA 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, instead of limiting the amount of rice that will enter the country, rice imports will instead be charged with corresponding tariffs. The collected amount shall be given to farmers to strengthen their productive capacities in the amount of at least P10 billion a year, for the next six years through a fund known as RCEF.

“The issues that have surfaced lately in the rice sector, particularly among the government agencies charged with the implementation of the RCEF law, are causes for apprehension on whether our rice sector and rice farmers are adequately made ready this early to face the regime of rice import liberalization,” seasoned lawmaker said.

The law allocates P5 billion annually to procure rice farm equipment through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech). Farm equipment such as tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, and irrigation pumps will be given as a grant-in-kind primarily to eligible rice farmer associations and registered rice cooperatives.

“During the Senate deliberation on this law, we have identified 947 rice-producing municipalities in 55 provinces where farm equipment will be deployed over the next six years,” the lady senator said.

The law also allocates P3 billion to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to develop, propagate and promote inbred seeds, which is projected to increase farmers’ yield by up to 50 percent.

She pointed out that the Department of Agriculture’s regular program on hybrid rice remains and should not be confused with the RCEF for PhilRice.

Also under the law, P1 billion will be given to Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements.

“We want to make sure that LBP and DBP have come up with guidelines.”

“We want to make sure that LBP and DBP have come up with guidelines and policies that make access to the funds by farmer beneficiaries easy and not prohibitive,” Villar said.

The law also provides that P1 billion will be used for skills training in rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, farm machinery servicing and maintenance and knowledge and technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.

This portion will be divided among training providers such as PhilMech (10%), PhilRice (10%), Agriculture Training Institute (10%), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (70%).

The inquiry will also seek clarification on the reported release by the Department of Budget and Management of P5 billion in December 2018 to help the rice farmers, but only P1 billion of which has been credited to the farmers’ accounts, under the memorandum of understanding entered by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) with LBP and DBP.

PhilMech and PhilRice are also reported to be not ready yet to come out with their respective guidelines. The guidelines should have been issued 15 days after the Implementing Rules and Regulation publication.


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