Several government agencies would be given up to P33.9 billion to directly purchase unhusked rice or palay from local farmers to support them amid the plunging prices of the commodity, under a House Joint Resolution approved by a panel of lawmakers on Wednesday.
The resolution, principally filed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, authorized the use of the rice subsidy fund in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for year 2020.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, adopted the joint resolution upon the motion of Deputy Speaker and Abono Party-list Rep. Conrad Estrella III.
It authorizes the use of rice subsidy for the purchase of palay and mandates the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Interior and Local Government, National Defense, Transportation, Environment and Natural Resources , and the local government units, in coordination with the National Food Authority and the Department of Agriculture, to directly purchase palay from the local farmers and distribute the rice subsidy in the form of actual rice, instead of cash, to government workers.
The resolution was unclear as to what price per sack or per kilo the government agencies should buy the palay.
Palay prices have dropped significantly, to a current farmgate price of P14 per kilo, following the liberalization of the local rice industry and the supposed flooding of imported rice into the market.
The substituted resolution consolidated that HJR 322 filed by Romualdez and his wife, Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, and HJR 16 of Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte.
In HJR 322, the Romualdez couple cited P33.9-billion rice subsidies under next year’s national budget that could be utilized to directly buy back the palay of farmers and distribute actual rice for the government’s rice subsidy program.
Villafuerte in his HJR 16 mentioned some P29-billion rice subsidy fund that can be used to help farmers buy their palay.
This was done to address the NFA reports that the agency 209,525.15 metric tons of imported rice in their custody as of Aug. 22, 2019 and procured locally 5,864,007 bags of palay at 50 kilos per bag or 293,200.35 metric tons.
In their resolution, the Romualdez couple lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for pursuing the vision of food security for all.Filipinos by allotting P137.1 billion for agricultural productivity, support for farmers, and fisherfolk, and strengthen the climate resilience communities, among others.
“Despite the efforts made by the government to protect the local rice industry, large stocks of imported rice have depressed the buying price of local palay to levels way below the cost of production,” the Romualdez couple said.