600K rice farmers may get P5K cash aid from RCEF surplus — Villar
MANILA, Philippines — Approximately 600,000 rice farmers may get P5,000 each if the more than P3 billion excess collection of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) under the Rice Tariffication Law will be included as cash assistance under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021, Senator Cynthia Villar said Friday.
According to Villar, the BOC has already collected P13.68 billion in revenues under Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law from January to September 2020.
RA No. 11203, which took effect in 2019, mandates the earmarking of P10 billion yearly for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) aimed at modernizing the rice sector.
The law also 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.
“I saw in the budget of the [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 said during the joint hearing of the Committees on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, Finance and Ways and Means on Senate Joint Resolution No. 12.
“‘Yung P3 billion kapag dinivide mo—kasi ‘yung rice farmers owning one hectare and below is 600,000—kapag dinivide mo doon ang P3 billion, P5,000 lang ang isa noon,” she added.
(If you will divide the P3 billion to 600,000 farmers who own one hectare of land or less, they will only get P5,000 each.)
The resolution seeks to authorize the use of the excess collection of the BOC under the rice tariffication law as cash assistance for rice farmers to be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021. It was approved at the committee level during the hearing.
However, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the cash assistance should not be fixed on the 600,000 rice farmers as estimated by Villar, saying there are about 1.1 million rice farmers who own one hectare of land and below based on data from DA.
Nevertheless, Villar said the excess revenue from rice tariffication should be provided to rice farmers to help them cope up with the adverse effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on their livelihoods.
“Whatever money we can raise in excess of rice tariffication, we just give as financial assistance to the rice farmers kasi ang daming complaint na bumaba daw ang price ng rice (since there are a lot of complaints that the price of rice has decreased) because of this, because of that,” she said.
“So maybe to soften these complaints, we will just give them financial assistance lalo na ngayon na (especially during this time of) pandemic,” she added.
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