Pacquiao seeks probe into Rice Tariffication law, P10-B fund for farmers

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2020 08:32 PM

Farmers sieve rice grains in Lucban, Quezon on May 1, 2018. Miggy Hilario, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Monday filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Act and the P10-billion fund under the law, saying farmers groups have been suffering from the "dramatic decline" of the price of unhusked rice.

Pacquiao noted in Senate Resolution No. 554 that before the implementation of the law, "the farm gate price of palay was averaged at P21.39 per kilo; but after imported rice started flooding the market, it instantly dropped to P17.88 per kilo."

"When the measure was presented and explained to me, I was assured that our farmers will not be left behind," Pacquiao said in a statement.

"Pero kung papakinggan mo ang ating mga magsasaka, talagang halos umiiyak na sila dahil sa baba ng bentahan ng palay," he said, noting that he was one of the co-authors of the law.

(But if you listen to our farmers, they nearly weep due to the low prices of unhusked rice.)

Some farmers from Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Sorsogon, Tarlac and Laguna even said they sometimes have to sell their harvest for P7 to P10 per kilo, the senator said.

The Rice Tariffication Act removed the cap placed on imported rice that enter the Philippines to stabilize prices of the staple grain in local markets.

The same law created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a P10-billion annual allocation to help farmers cope with the influx of imported rice during the first 6 years of its implementation.

The RCEF was supposed to be spent for the following programs:
- Rice farm machinery and equipment (50%) 
- Mechanization program, rice seed development, propagation, and promotion (30%) 
- Expanded rice credit assistance (10%) 
- Credit Program and rice extension services (10%) 

"On paper, napakaganda sana nitong RCEF na ito na nakalagay sa batas. Ang problema, mukhang wala namang nararamdaman ang ating mga farmers at wala namang nakakaabot sa kanila na biyaya," Pacquiao said.

(On paper, RCEF seems really good. The problem is that it seems that the fund does not reach our farmers.)

"That is what I want to find out on this investigation," he said.

The Senate investigation will focus on how much the government has collected from imported rice taxes and how much of it has been distributed to aid farmers, he said.

"Kailangan natin malaman kung nagagamit ba talaga sa tama ang pondo na inilaan para sa ating mga magsasaka," Pacquiao said.

(We have to find out if the fund is really being used correctly for the benefit of our farmers.)

"I also want to find out if there might be a need to amend the Rice Tarrification Law because this early, the law is already showing very serious flaws," he said. 

Congress' session is currently suspended to give way to the All Souls' and All Saints' Day holidays.

Pacquiao's resolution is expected to be referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture once the chamber resumes plenary work in November.

Last year, Senate Committee on Agriculture chair Cynthia Villar also urged her colleagues to investigate how the executive branch is spending the RCEF.

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