At least P700 million in cash aid from the rice tariff collection in excess of the P10 billion collected this year should be given to the farmers, said the Senate.
During the interpellation on Senate Joint Resolution 8, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan insisted that the country’s rice farmers need cash assistance in the transition to a liberalized regime in the rice industry. He said funds may be taken from the excess of the P10 billion of the rice tariff collection.
“In fact, ma’am, I am willing to terminate my interpellation this evening if we can get a commitment from the chairperson because the DOF [Department of Finance] has manifested during the budget hearings that they have already collected P10.7 billion as of Sept. 20 this year.
“In other words, there is already P700 million na pupwede na pong i-allocate as cash assistance without need to amend the law” said Pangilinan.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture that conducted a hearing on Joint Resolution 8, agreed with Pangilinan’s proposal.
Joint Resolution 8, which was discussed in a hearing and on the Senate floor, similarly wants to ease the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law and the subsequent influx of imported rice on local rice farmers.
Villar said it directs the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Food Authority in specified 11 provinces to buy directly from rice farmers for the October to December rice subsidy component of the Conditional Cash Transfer program.
The resolution, Villar said, encourages LGUs to do the same for its various programs which need rice.
The Senate approved on second reading the measure seeking to provide rice instead of rice cash subsidy to the 4.1 milllion beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“The program grants the beneficiaries rice subsidy in the form of financial assistance in the amount of P600.00 per month, equivalent to 20 kilos of rice,” said Villar.
The approval of the measure came after the Senate committees on agriculture and agrarian reform approved Senate Joint Resolution No. 8 which was signed by 14 senators in a move to aid farmers in the country.
Under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 11203, the NFA is tasked to buy palay from local farmers “all-year-round for the maintenance of a rice buffer stock and can be assigned to undertake direct local buying on behalf of the departments,” it said.
The resolution also noted that local government units’ “perennial” need for rice to supply the requirement of their hospitals, jail, and other local institutions, feeding programs and calamity-program interventions.
“And they also have the funds to do such purchasing of rice,” it pointed out.
The resolution noted that a total budget of P33.9 billion are allotted for rice subsidies, a chunk of which is given to 4Ps beneficiaries under the DSWD.
The measure also discussed the remaining allocations of P 2.89 billion for rice subsidy programs for military uniformed personnel such as the provision of 20 kilos of rice per month, in the form of financial assistance, to the uniformed personnel of the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA).
Citing latest government statistics, the resolution states that average palay prices plummeted from P23.10 per kilogram last year to P16.28 per kilogram.
This was the lowest palay price in seven years, the resolution noted.