‘15,000 loan assistance to 100,000 farmers terribly insufficient’
‘Emergency situation needs special emergency fund for direct cash transfers’
MANILA — To help Filipino rice farmers cope with the plummeting palay prices, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has filed a joint resolution to amend the Rice Tariffication Law and allow a P13-billion immediate cash assistance to rice farmers.
In a still unnumbered joint resolution filed late Thursday afternoon, Pangilinan pointed to two possible sources of direct cash transfers to rice farmers:
1. The fund balance of P4 billion of the P10 billion appropriated for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 national budget; and
2. The P9.19 billion collected as tariff revenues from rice importation from 5 March 2019 to 31 August 2019.
“These amounts were confirmed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Bureau of Customs during the 3 September 2019 hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food,” Pangilinan said, adding that there may be other possible sources of the emergency fund.
“Emergency ang kalagayan ng ating mga magpapalay at ng rice industry. At meron namang pera na pwede nang ipamahagi sa mga hirap na hirap nang mga magsasaka natin (Our rice farmers and the rice industry face an emergency situation. And we have the money that can be given to our suffering farmers),” said the former secretary on food security.
A joint resolution can fast-track amendments to existing laws. Like a bill, a joint resolution requires the approval of both Chambers in identical form and the president’s signature to become law. A joint resolution is generally used for a single item or issue, such as a continuing or emergency appropriations bill.
An example is Joint Resolution No. 5, which was filed 12 October 2009 and signed by the president 3 November 2009. It subsequently authorized the use of P12 billion in unprogrammed fund for relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction operations in areas affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.
Once properly numbered on Monday morning, the joint resolution filed by Pangilinan can be acted upon right away.
“Maipapakita nitong joint resolution na kinikilala nating mga nasa lehislatura at ehekutiba na malala ang kalagayan ng ating mga magpapalay at kumikilos tayo para ibsan ang kalagayang ito (With this joint resolution, we in the legislature and executive are showing that we recognize the dire situation of our farmers and that we are working to mitigate this situation),” Pangilinan said.
‘Loan to 100,000 farmers terribly insufficient’
Rice farmers across the country are reeling from the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, which was rushed in response to the long queues for cheap government rice late last year.
In response, the government through the Department of Agriculture allocated P1.5 billion for P15,000 no-interest loans to farmers.
But, Pangilinan pointed out, this program is only for those farming one hectare and below, affecting only about 100,000 of the 2.11 million Filipino rice farmers.
“Hindi ito sapat. At paano pa yung nakikisaka lang na siyang pinaka-nangangailangan ng tulong (And how will this help the landless farmer who most need help). This is terribly insufficient to compensate for their loss of income, which is estimated to be at least P60 billion,” he said.
Pangilinan has also asked consumers to help our farmers by buying their rice.
“Hanapin sa mga suki ang local rice dahil alam natin na punong-puno ang merkado ng imported rice (Ask your preferred store for local rice because we know that the market is flooded with imported rice),” he added.
Filipino rice farmers produce most (about 12 million tons) of the rice consumed in the country. Before the law, the maximum rice importation was just a small portion (1 to 1.8 million tons) of the rice Filipinos eat.
With 2.5 million tons of rice already imported this year and flooding the market, the palay of Filipino rice farmers in parts of the country are selling at P7-P8, below their production cost of P12.