Drop in rice, palay prices don’t match; compensate farmers for losses ASAP: Pangilinan

MANILA — The dip in rice prices does not match the drop in palay prices, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Sunday, asking the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate and correct this anomaly.

“Hindi patas ang pagbaba ng presyo ng palay sa pagbaba ng presyo ng bigas sa merkado,” he said.

“Ibig sabihin, hindi sinasagot ng Rice Tariffication Law ang pangakong ibaba ang presyo ng bigas para sa mga consumers; at pinahirapan lang ng batas ang mga magpapalay dahil sobrang baba na ng presyo ng palay (This means that the Rice Tariffication Law does not fulfill its promise to lower rice prices for consumers; and the law only causes our rice farmers hardships because of low palay prices),” he added.

Pangilinan cited the November 8 update on rice and corn prices from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Reference No. 2019-322, which showed:

· The farmgate price of palay further dropped to P15.43 per kilo from P15.49.

· The average wholesale price of well-milled rice also dipped to P37.60 per kilo from P37.76 per kilo.

· The average retail price of well milled rice fell to P41.75 from P41.87.

Earlier, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) claimed that Rice Tariffication Law is for the greater good.

“Paanong magiging para sa kabutihan ng lahat ang pag-aangkat ng sobra-sobrang bigas kung walang ganansya ang consumer at mga magpapalay (How can massive rice importation be good for all when both the consumers and the rice farmers don’t benefit)?” said Pangilinan.

At the same time, Pangilinan renewed his call to immediately compensate farmers for the billions of pesos in losses they have incurred with the flood of rice imports.

“Tungkulin ng pamahalaan ang sagipin ang mga sinalanta ng batas na ito (It is the government’s duty to save those devastated by this law),” he said.

Pangilinan has repeatedly called on the government to fast-track the release of initial P3 billion for the direct cash compensation to rice farmers whose livelihood has been affected by the Rice Tariffication Law.

During the plenary hearing of the Department of Finance’s 2020 budget, Pangilinan underscored Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s support for Joint Resolution No. 2, which sought to amend the Rice Tariffication Law and allow the distribution of P15 billion immediate cash assistance directly to rice farmers.

The P15 billion will be sourced from the fund balance of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 national budget and the collected tariffs from rice importation.

To avoid legal questions, Pangilinan suggested the passage of the 2020 budget by last week of November to give the Finance Department the proper appropriations cover to release P3 billion in December and another P3 billion in January 2020.

Pangilinan also raised the possibility of passing a supplemental budget by December to fund the P3 billion initial direct cash assistance to the rice farmers.