The Senate recently passed on third reading the bill which provides support to farmers projected to be adversely affected by the lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice importation.
With a vote of 14 affirmatives, zero negatives and zero abstentions, senators approved Senate Bill 1998 or the bill which amends Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariffication Act and replaces the quantitative import restriction on rice with tariffs.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, and principal sponsor of the bill, said “a package of support programs is incorporated in the bill to make sure that Filipino farmers will have a fighting chance against the farmers of neighboring ASEAN countries as cheaper rice starts flooding the market.”
“I will not agree na mag-liberalize ang importation na walang tulong sa farmer kasi talo talaga tayo. Talo tayo ng Vietnam at Thailand in terms of competitiveness. So we have to help our farmers to be competitive as soon as possible. That’s why we need additional funds and programs to help our farmers mechanize and ultimately lower the cost of producing palay,” Villar said.
“We have to help our farmers to be competitive as soon as possible.”
The bill creates the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund consisting of an annual appropriation of P10 billion for the next six years following the approval of this act.
The Rice Fund will be allocated to rice producing areas and will be earmarked as follows:
- Fifty percent (50%) shall be released to and implemented by the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) as grant in aid to eligible farmers’ associations, registered rice cooperatives and local government units in the form of rice farm equipment, such as tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, irrigation pumps, small solar irrigation, reapers, driers, millers, and the like, for purposes of improving farm mechanization;
- Thirty Percent (30%) shall be released to and implemented by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and shall be used for the development, propagation and promotion of inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and the organization of rice farmers into seed growers associations and/or cooperatives engaged in seed production and trade;
- Ten Percent (10%) shall be made available in the form of credit facility with minimal interest rates and with minimum collateral requirements to rice farmers and cooperatives, to be managed equally by the Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines;
- Ten Percent (10%) shall be made available for the extension services provided by PhilMech, PhilRice, Agricutural Training Institute and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for teaching skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization and knowledge/ technology transfer through farm schools nationwide as follows: 70 percent to TESDA, 10 percent each to ATI, PhilRice and PhilMech.
The seasoned legislator said the bill gives preferential attention to rice farmers, cooperatives and associations adversely affected by the tariffication of the quantitative import restriction on rice.
“The bill gives preferential attention to rice farmers, cooperatives and associations adversely affected by tariffication.”
The bill also allocates tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion to the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance program which will compensate rice farmers who are projected to lose farm income arising from tariffication.
A portion of the excess tariff will also be allocated for titling of agricultural rice lands, expanded crop insurance on rice, and crop diversification program.