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Senate panel OKs reso on cash aid for rice farmers from excess tariffs

/ 12:57 PM October 16, 2020

Farmers from Guimba town in Nueva Ecija province harvest palay to ensure food security amidst the COVID-19 pandemic but the average palay prices this season plunges to 13 pesos a kilo due to the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law. – CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — A joint resolution authorizing the use of excess collection of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under the rice tariffication law as cash assistance for rice farmers to be included in the General Appropriations Act of 2021, has been approved at the committee level of the Senate.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, noted that Senate Joint Resolution No. 12 will help rice farmers cope up with the adverse effects of the coronavirus disease pandemic to their livelihoods.

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“We move to approve this Senate resolution that we are giving all the excess, whether it’s 2019, 2020 or wherever, to the cash assistance to the rice farmers owning 1 hectare [of land] and below which is numbering 600,000, para matulungan naman natin sila in this time of pandemic and oversupply of rice in the Philippines,” she said during the joint hearing of the Committees on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, Finance and Ways and Means on Friday.

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Senator Imee Marcos then seconded the motion.

However, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the cash assistance should not be fixated on the 600,000 rice farmers estimated by Villar.

“The data that we have is about 1.1 million farmers ang nasa category ng 1 hectare and below,” Dar said during the hearing.

The joint resolution, introduced by Vilar, noted that Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law which took effect in 2019 mandated the earmarking of P10 billion yearly for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) aimed at modernizing the rice sector.

The law provides that if the annual traffic revenues from rice importation exceed P10 billion in any given year within the six year period following the effectivity of the Act, the excess tariff revenues shall be earmarked by Congress and included in the GAA of the following year for the rice farmer financial assistance, titling of agricultural lands, expanded crop insurance program on rice, and crop diversification program.

Villar, citing information from BOC, said the collection on revenues of the bureau under the Rice Tariffication Law from January to September 2020 is already at P13.68 billion.

“I saw in the budget of [Department of] Agriculture, they are putting another amount of more than P1 billion for crop diversification, which I think we should put na lang (instead) on the financial assistance to rice farmers together with this tentative P3.6 billion,” she also said.

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Cynthia Villar, Department of Agriculture, Rice Tariffication Law
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