PLLO exec: Move to replace 4Ps rice cash subsidy with actual rice may be certified as urgent
MANILA, Philippines — A joint resolution replacing the cash rice subsidy of some 4Ps beneficiaries with actual rice bought from local farmers for the remaining months of 2019 may soon get a presidential certification as urgent, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Sec. Adelino Sitoy said Wednesday.
“If this should be approved by the House, and then forwarded to the Senate, we can work for the immediate certification [as urgent of the resolution],” Sitoy said, adding that the executive version of the measure is almost similar to that of the House’s.
The still unnumbered joint resolution being tackled by the House committee on agriculture and food seeks to transfer the remaining P6.97 billion 2019 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for rice subsidy to the National Food Authority (NFA) for the procurement of palay from local farmers.
The P600 rice subsidy is being distributed to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) monthly on top of the other cash grants they are receiving.
The proposed law will replace the P600/month rice subsidy given to 4Ps beneficiaries with actual rice in a bid to help alleviate local farmers’ plight, panel chair Quezon 1st District Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga said during the hearing.
DSWD National Program Manager for 4Ps Gemma Gabuya also said they are hoping for the swift passage of the measure which would be piloted in Regions I, II, III, IV-A, IV-B, V, and VI from October to December.
“So I think this is urgent by November. Sana po ma-approve na po ito [We hope this would be approved immeadiately] because we cannot hold the cash in the Land Bank [of the Philippines],” Gabuya said.
Gabuya admitted that the resolution is just a “stop-gap measure,” and long-term solutions to issues affecting farmers should be crafted.
Although they do not oppose the proposal, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid Secretary-General Anabelle Luna said they still prefer the P600/month rice subsidy they are receiving under 4Ps.
Councilor Adelino Manabat, a representative of farmers from Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, meanwhile questioned the replacement of P600/month rice subsidy with actual rice. He argued that many 4Ps beneficiaries are farmers who usually set aside rice for their own consumption.
“Wala ba tayong ibang makukunan ng pondo at ‘wag na isakripisyo ‘yung pondo para sa 4Ps [Can we not source this from a different budget and not sacrifice the budget for 4Ps]?” he asked.
Reacting to this, Department of Agriculture Usec. Ariel Cayanan said the government had already exhausted all efforts to look for sources of funding.
Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law signed February this year replaces quantitative restrictions on imported rice with tariffs or taxes. The law has been blamed for the influx of imported rice in the country which triggered local rice prices to drop to as low as P7 per kilo in some areas.
Both the Senate and House have launched inquiries into the law’s impacts on farmers. /jpv
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