MANILA - Members of the House of Representatives from the Liberal Party on Wednesday filed a joint resolution that would authorize the use of some P13 billion in funds as cash assistance for farmers amid the drop in the price of palay or rough rice.
Under the rice tariffication law that removed the cap on grain imports, the government is mandated to allot P10 billion to aid farmers through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
Of this figure, P4 billion remains unused, according to the lawmakers, citing the Bureau of Customs in a Senate hearing last week. The bureau also said it has collected P9.19 billion as revenues from rice importation.
“We see no reason why we can’t use this P13 billion to immediately give aid to our farmers who need it the most. There is no point to [be] earning from imports if our people won’t benefit from it, especially the most affected," Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said.
Quimbo, along with Quezon City 6th district Rep. Kit Belmonte, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Nene Sato, and Camarines Sur 3rd District Representative Gabriel Bordado filed the joint resolution Wednesday.
“What our farmers need is immediate cash assistance, not loans that will only add burden to the smallholder farmers."
The Department of Agriculture earlier said farmers could avail themselves of a P15,000 loan payable in 8 years with zero interest to help local producers of the staple grain cope with falling prices.
The National Food Authority will also buy rough rice from farmers at a higher price, while tariffs on further imports this year could be increased, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
A counterpart resolution has been filed in the Senate by LP president Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the lawmakers said.
Pangilinan had proposed that the P10 billion RCEF be given directly to rice farmers together with the tariff already collected by the government.
Senators earlier raised concern about the use of the P10 billion annual fund, with Sen. Cynthia Villar seeking an investigation into its use.
Quimbo, meanwhile, urged the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate rice millers and traders for possibly abusing farmers through “unfair” and “severe” reduction of palay prices.
Dar earlier said some traders might have caused the drop in the price of palay through hoarding.