‘Christmas gift’: Pangilinan prods gov’t to release P6B aid for farmers
MANILA, Philippines — “Let this be our Christmas gift to our rice farmers devastated by the flood of imported rice.”
This was opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan’s message to the Departments of Finance (DOF) and Agriculture (DA) as he pushed for the release of the P6-billion compensation for rice farmers this December.
“They need this reparation now,” the senator stressed.
Farmers have complained of low farmgate prices for palay as bigger volumes of cheap imported rice flood the market due to the rice tariffication law, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law in February this year.
Pangilinan earlier filed a bill proposing a P6-billion supplemental budget for direct cash transfers to vulnerable rice farmers who are planting on one hectare or less, “as compensation for the reduction or loss of farm income arising from the influx of imported rice.”
Of the country’s 2.11 million rice farmers, 1.14 million plant in at most one hectare of land. However, according to DOF, only 416,972 are in provinces that experienced an income loss of at least 2 pesos per kilo. DOF will decide on the actual number of farmers who will be compensated.
The cash transfer will give them a lifeline to continue farming while we try our best to fix the law, Pangilinan said.
The Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act lifts the import limit on rice and instead imposes tariffs on the staple. It aims to boost the supply of rice in the country, but local farmers are reportedly suffering from the influx of cheap imported rice.
The former food security secretary noted that eight months since the passage of the law, farmgate prices of palay have plunged to as low as P7 to P10 per kilo in some provinces while the price of rice dropped by 2.9 percent and the price of palay by 17.48 percent.
Pangilinan said releases from the proposed supplemental fund will be made by the Department of Budget and Management directly to DA, which shall make the fund available to farmers.
The fund shall be made available until December 31, 2020, according to Pangilinan.
Edited by KGA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.