DoF backs Pangilinan’s call to provide immediate cash aid to rice farmers, effective implementation of Sagip Saka Act

MANILA – The Department of Finance (DoF) has expressed support behind the joint resolution filed by Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to provide P13-billion immediate cash assistance to rice farmers affected by the Rice Tariffication Law.

“We think that a cash transfer program should be developed for the affected rice farmers using the excess,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Wednesday during the hearing on the proposed 2020 budget of the DoF and its attached agencies.

Dominguez also expressed willingness to work with Pangilinan’s office and look into the resolution seeking to provide cash assistance to rice farmers whose income has been severely affected by the drop in palay prices.

The fund will come from 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 the P9.19 billion collected as tariff revenues from rice importation from March 5, 2019 to August 31, 2019.

“The need is now. The biggest bulk of palay purchases are done September to December so 60 percent of our harvests come in. Therefore, with the inflow of largest supply of locally produced palay, the tendency would be that the prices would drop further, and that’s why the assistance should come immediately,” said Pangilinan.

While the DoF is looking at the joint resolution, Pangilinan asked the DoF to extend immediate cash assistance to rice farmers whose income has been affected by the influx of imported rice in the market.

“What I inclined to look at, in the interim, maybe two or three years, a portion of the mechanization allocation or a portion of the in-bred seed allocation should be made as direct cash assistance,” Pangilinan told Dominguez.

“We’re not looking at increasing appropriation. We’re just looking at realigning the current appropriation,” he added.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) earlier proposed that cash assistance to rice farmers should be made available but it was not adopted in the Rice Tariffication Law.

Meanwhile, Dominguez also backed Pangilinan’s challenge to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Republic Act 11321 or the Sagip Saka Act to ensure that the rice farmers and fisherfolk will benefit from it.

The DoF is one of the key government agencies included in the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Council, which is mandated to oversee the proper implementation of the program.

Dominguez said the DoF is closely coordinating with related government agencies to hasten the crafting of the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

– Excerpts from DOF Budget Hearing – Questions on Rice Tariffication, Undervaluation of Rice Imports, Sagip Saka Law