Pangilinan calls for urgent action on cash aid to rice farmers, supports House Bill 8964

SENATOR Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan supports the move of the House appropriations and agriculture committees approving the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers bill for rice farmers tilling one hectare or less of land.

“Dapat madaliin ang pagbigay ng direktang tulong pinansyal sa mga Pilipinong magsasaka na patuloy na hinahagupit ng epekto ng Covid pandemic at sa unli-rice import policy ng gobyerno,” said the former food security and agriculture modernization secretary.

“We laud House Committees on Appropriations and Food and Agriculture for their approval of House Bill 8964 authorizing the Department of Agriculture to use its annual rice tariff revenues in excess of 10 billion pesos ‘for the direct provision of cash assistance to farmers,’” Pangilinan said.

Almost two years ago on 13 August 2019, Pangilinan in a privilege speech pushed for the same thing in calling for a review of the Rice Tariffication Law, specifically on the use of the 10-billion-peso Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

RCEF, which is funded by tariffs generated by rice imports, was set up to make the domestic rice industry more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seeds, and more financing and extension services, among others.

“Tama itong pinasang bill sa House. Maiibsan nito ang tindi ng pinagdadaanan ng ating mga magpapalay sa kabila ng pagbaba ng presyo ng palay at ng pandemya,” he added.

On 7 December 2020, the Senate passed on third reading a similar measure, Senate Bill 1927, in substitution of Senate Joint Resolution 12, which Pangilinan co-authored and co-sponsored.

“Kailangan itong maisabatas sa lalong madaling panahon para mabigyan agad ng ayuda ang mga Pilipinong magpapalay. Di ba nga, ‘aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?’” he said.

Pangilinan said that during this pandemic emergency situation, the most tangible support we can give our farmers is cash assistance that will help them cope with the liberalized regime and parry the impact of the low palay prices due to the imports surge.

“Parati ring nakikipagsapalaran ang mga magsasaka natin sa banta ng sobrang init at mga bagyo,” he said.

“So habang tinitingnan natin ang mga intervention na makakatulong sa pangmatagalan para sa magpapalay at sa ating mga unli-rice kumain, ang cash aid ngayon ay makakasiguro sa araw-araw ng ating mga magpapalay,” Pangilinan added.