Senator Cynthia Villar has asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to revisit a proposal raised last year to provide actual rice to the beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program and buy rice from local farmers.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said “DSWD can help ease difficulties as we transition to the ‘tariffied’ rice importation regime by using its P28 billion rice subsidy under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to buy rice from local farmers.”
Aside from health and education grants, 4Ps household-beneficiaries are entitled to a 20-kilo rice subsidy per month but were given cash instead of rice.
“Last year, this proposal was shelved because of logistical requirements.”
“Last year, this proposal was shelved because of logistical requirements. But I want them to take another look at this lalo na ngayon at naghahanap tayo ng paraan para matulungan ang mga magsasaka na maitawid sila sa transition phase ng rice tariffication law. Siguro kahit mahirap, gawin na natin kung ito ang makakatulong sa kanila,” the veteran legislator said.
“Local farmers will be cushioned by the effects of the entry of cheaper rice imports.”
The seasoned lawmaker said if the proposal pushes through, local farmers will now have a market for their rice produce and will be cushioned by the effects of the entry of cheaper rice imports.
“I hope, given our situation now, our government will be more receptive of this proposal as we wait for the full benefits of the rice tariffication law to be felt by the local industry,” the lady senator said.
Republic Act 11203, which took effect in March this year, replaced the quantitative restriction on the importation of rice with tariffs, which is collected to fund the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
Among the benefits local farmers will get from the full and proper implementation of the law is increased productivity and incomes through farm mechanization, production of inbred seeds, access to cheap credit and improved skills.
Last year, a plan was devised where local farmers will produce rice for 4Ps beneficiaries in their community. Rice will be available from the Bigasan ng Bayan which the Department of Ariculture will open within the area, doing away with transport costs.
Villar has also been advocating for a CCT program tied up with agriculture like what is being done in Thailand.
“In Thailand, they require 6 million school children to drink 200 ml of milk every day, which brought up their dairy industry,” Villar said.
She hopes DSWD would look beyond the logistical difficulties and give more weight to the potential benefits it would bring to farmers.