MANILA - Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Wednesday urged the Departments of Finance and Agriculture to release P6-billion in cash compensation for rice farmers this December.
In a bicameral conference committee meeting, Pangilinan said the compensation will "be our Christmas gift to our rice farmers devastated by the flood of imported rice."
"They need this reparation now," he said.
Last November, Pangilinan filed a bill seeking to augment the 2019 budget with P6 billion to immediately provide cash from unprogrammed funds in the spending plan for rice farmers.
The liberalization of rice imports, while intended to give the country a steady supply, has led to declining palay farmgate prices in many rice-producing areas.
Six months after the rice tariffication law took effect, farm-gate prices of palay dropped by 30.1 percent to P16.18 per kilo from P23.14 per kilo compared to the same period last year, September data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
The drop in farmgate price of palay has resulted in huge income losses for rice farmers and the industry, now estimated around P60 billion, and projected to double by yearend.
Pangilinan said releases from the proposed supplemental fund will be made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) directly to the Department of Agriculture (DA), which will distribute the fund to the farmers.
“Hindi kasalanan ng ating mga magpapalay ang nangyayaring pagguho ng kanilang kabuhayan. Kailangan isalba natin ang pagpapalay dito sa atin, dahil kung hindi, tayo ring lahat na kumakain ng bigas ang sa huli ay magdudusa at kakapusin sa bigas," Pangilinan said.
(The damage to their livelihood is not our farmers’ fault. We need to save our rice farmers because if not, all of us who consume rice will in the end suffer and face rice shortage.)