Roxas, Isabela—True to their commitment to strengthen support to the agriculture sector, the Provincial Government of Isabela with the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders recently kicked off the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund campaign at the Roxas Astrodome here.
Senator Cynthia Villar, guest of honor, said the Rice Tariffication Bill was a certified priority bill as endorsed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Villar explained that with this measure, the government can fully achieve rice security, specifically the availability and accessibility of safe rice at affordable prices and the key features of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, citing the creation of RCEF.
The law also created the RCEF to improve rice farmers’ competitiveness and income amid the liberalization of the rice trade as it aims to protect the rice industry from sudden price fluctuations, she said.
RCEF consists of an initial appropriation of P10 billion of the tariff collections on rice imports, and shall be appropriated annually for rice farmers.
RCEF will support greater farm mechanization, distribution of high-yield inbred seed, expanded rice credit assistance, and rice extension services or education in the rice industry, Villar emphasized.
The senator explained that another P1 billion is also available in the form of credit with minimal interest to rice farmers and cooperatives to be managed by LandBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar lauded the leadership of the provincial government of Isabela for coming up with a program through the Nagkaisang Magsasaka ng Isabela Agricultural Cooperative to buy the palay harvest of Isabela farmers.
Dar echoed the senator’s declaration: “We need your help in solving the emerging issues after the passing of the law,” he said.
“I am pleased to announce that Isabela will be our model province across the country as far as implementing measures that will ease farmers’ burden and help them rise up in their present situation.”
Dar cited the creation of the Nagkakaisang Magsasakang Isabelino, a super cooperative with initial members of 6,000 farmers’ provincewide.
Isabela Gov. Rodolfo “Rodito” T. Albano III expressed gratitude for the efforts DA headed by Regional Executive Director Narciso A. Edillo and other agencies involved in the implementation of projects under the RCEF.
Albano said the primary beneficiaries are the rice and tobacco farmers in Isabela and the NMIAC as program partners.
“This initiative supplements the hardships of the farmers across the province and improve their production and competitiveness since it will provide financial services in support with their livelihood,” Albano said.
DBP president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Herbosa assured the support of DBP in uplifting the lives of Filipinos through providing low interests to its borrowers especially the LGUs’ implementation of Rice Competetiveness Enhancement Program in the country during the launching.
The DBP has partnered with NMIAC and PayMaya Inc. for financial services to farmers in the form of e-wallet cards. It is currently working with the provincial government of Isabela to collect data from farmers to aid in the opening of bank accounts.
During the launching, the DBP signed an agreement with the cooperative for a P500-million credit program of RCEF.
Meanwhile, Roxas Mayor Totep Calderon expressed his thanks to all the agencies and the almost 5,000 attendees during the launching.
“We are blessed with the manifestation of everyone as we tackle emerging issues in agriculture affecting all of us,” he said.
NMI President Ana Cristina Go, a former representative of Isabela, said they aim to double their membership in the coming years.
The super cooperative was a brainchild of Governor Albano III, strongly supported by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Governor Faustino Dy III. The cooperative will be engaged in palay trading, milling, processing and marketing.
Villar added that P3 billion for the RCEF was allocated to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for the development, propagation and promotion of inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and the organization of rice farmers into seed growers associations engaged in seed production and trade.
Villar disclosed that P1 billion of the fund was allocated for the extension services divided between PhilMech, PhilRice, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to teach skills on rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, and knowledge technology transfer through 1,855 farm schools nationwide.
For machineries, this will be handled by Philippine Center for Postharvest Research and Development (PHILMECH), seed assistance by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PHILRICE), credit by DBP, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC) and extension services by Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
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