To help ease difficulties faced by Filipino farmers with the transition to the ‘tariffied’ rice importation regime, Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development can use the P28-billion rice subsidy under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to buy rice from local farmers.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said this can be realized if the DSWD would revisit a proposal to provide actual rice to the government’s conditional cash transfer program beneficiaries.
Aside from health and education grants, she said 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,” said Villar.
But the senator said she wants the DSWD to take another look at this especially now that they are looking for ways to help our farmers to cope up with the transition phase of the Rice Tariffication Law.
“Perhaps, even if it’s difficult, let’s do this to help them,” said Villar.
The Nacionalista Party senator 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,” Villar 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.
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 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 everyday, which brought up their dairy industry," Villar said.
Villar said she hopes DSWD would look beyond the logistical difficulties and give more weight to the potential benefits it would bring to farmers.