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Senate inquiry into use of P10-B fund for farmers sought

/ 05:31 AM July 31, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — It has only been five months since the rice tariffication measure became a law and already, Sen. Cynthia Villar has raised concerns about the funds allocated to help rice farmers.

The law, signed in February, created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) that provides P10 billion a year for farmers to help them become more productive amid the expected influx of imported rice.

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Villar said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5 billion for the farmers last December in anticipation of the signing of the law.

But she said only P1 billion had been credited to the farmers’ account under the memorandum of understanding entered by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council with the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The use of the remaining P4 billion was still being threshed out by the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Agriculture (DA), she said.

Where have the funds gone?

But they are eyeing the distribution of the funds to agencies involved in the implementation of the rice tariffication law, she said.

“It should be ensured that kinks like this in the fund release and distribution flow should be ironed out and removed in the implementation of the RCEF law,” she said.

Villar has sought a Senate inquiry intended to check where the funds have gone, she said.

According to Villar, the DBM had said the P5 billion was for the RCEF, but the DA said the funds were for other purposes.

“That’s why I have to exercise my oversight function to make sure they follow the law. Because this is very important, this is the competitiveness of our farmers,” she said.

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The funds have to be used for their designated purpose, otherwise the farmers’ plight would not improve, she added.

Delayed guidelines

Villar also said the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) had yet to come up with their guidelines for distributing equipment to rice farmers and for providing inbred rice seeds.

The guidelines should have been issued 15 days after the publication of the law’s implementing rules and regulations, she said.

“The apparent delay in the PhilRice’s production of its guidelines comes as an irony when it earlier cited that the Duterte administration wants to raise national average rice yield to 6 metric tons per hectare and cut production cost to P8 per kilo,” she said.

At present, she noted, rice farmers only produce an average of 4 MT per hectare at a cost of P12 per kilo.

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TAGS: Cyntia Villar, RCEF, Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, rice farmers, Rice tariffication
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