Rice farmers need P20B emergency aid – Pangilinan
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday called for the release of a P20 billion emergency cash assistance fund for farmers to be sourced from tariffs and unprogrammed funds under the Rice Tariffication Act.
Pangilinan, who served as presidential adviser on food and agriculture under the Aquino administration, said farmers had lost an estimated P60 billion amid falling palay prices due to unrestrained rice imports under the Rice Tariffication Act, which was signed in February.
Under the law, rice importation is liberalized, with a tariff of 35 percent.
“But with the influx of rice imports, mas lumala ang kalagayan nila. Hindi na lalo mabayaran ang utang, lalong nababaon sa utang. Lalong nagugutom. Matatanda na rin ang mga rice farmers natin. Wala ng sumusunod sa yapak nila dahil sa hirap ng pagsasaka,” Pangilinan said in a privilege speech.
The law sets aside P10 billion subsidy annually for farmers which is meant to be used for various programs such as research, procurement of farming equipment, and credit, among others.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Department of Agriculture, Pangilinan said farm-gate prices of palay range from P14.10 per kilo in 11 provinces to P17.78 per kilo in other areas.
Pangilinan also hit the unfulfilled promises of the rice tariffication law, including the drop in the retail prices of rice as more rice is made available.
“Naalala po natin sa mga debate para maipasa ang rice tariffication measure, pito hanggang sampung piso ang ibababa ang presyo ng bigas. Hindi ito nangyayari pa,” Pangilinan said, noting that the price of rice decreased by only P1 to P2 per kilo.
Pangilinan also claimed that rice smuggling is a continuing problem.
Aside from the release of the emergency fund for the farmers, Pangilinan also proposed the following:
- Use of the agriculture special safeguards under Republic Act 8800 triggered by a volume or price threshold of imports.
- A recourse to the general safeguards and anti-dumping duties.
- For the DA to put in place monitoring and possible imposition of a suggested retail price for rice.
- For the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate existing rice importers for exploitative acts.
- Hasten the Survival and Recovery Loan (SURE) Assistance of P25,000 loan with zero interest for farmers.
- For DSWD’s cash-for-work program to provide emergency employment for distressed farmers. /gsg
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