Filipino farmers will have a fighting chance against farmers from neighboring ASEAN countries as cheaper rice will start flooding the market, according to Senator Cynthia Villar, principal author of the Rice Tariffication Bill, which was approved on third and final reading.
“I will not agree to liberalize the importation (of rice) without any help because they (farmers) will be the losers,” Villar said.
“Talo tayo ng
Vietnam at Thailand in terms of competitiveness. So we have to help our farmers to be competitive as soon as possible,” added Villar, who chairs the Senate agriculture and food committee.
“That’s why we need additional funds and programs to help our farmers mechanize and ultimately lower the cost of producing palay,” she said.
The Senate on Wednesday passed on third reading the bill which provides support to farmers projected to be adversely affected by the lifting of the quantitative restriction on the importation of rice.
With a vote of 14 affirmative, 0 negative and 0 abstention, 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.
Villar said “a package of support programs is incorporated in the bill to make sure that Filipino farmers will be competitive with farmers from neighboring countries.”
According to Villar, 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: 50 percent shall be released to and implemented by the Philippine Center for PostHarvest Development and Mechanization 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; 30 percent shall be released to and implemented by the Philippine Rice Research Institute 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; 10 percent 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 Land Bank 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% to TESDA, 10% each to ATI, PhilRice and PhilMech.
Villar 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 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.