Pangilinan seeks initial P1 billion for warehouse, rice mill in every rice-producing district

Pangilinan seeks initial P1 billion for warehouse, rice mill in every rice-producing district

Bawat butil na hindi naaaksaya, nadadagdag sa kita ng magsasaka: Kiko

MANILA — To help rice farmers already in dire straits due to the unimpeded rice importation allowed by the Rice Tariffication Law, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan seeks an initial P1 billion for the construction of one warehouse and rice mill in every rice-producing district.

In Senate Bill 33, or the Post-Harvest Facilities Support Act of 2019, these structures, as well as the equipment and machinery that government will also be mandated to buy, shall then be sold to accredited farmer cooperatives at cost amortized for 25 years.

“Ang ibig natin ay tumaas ang kita ng mga magsasaka natin. Ang ibig natin ay gumaan nang kaunti ang kanilang hirap. Ang ibig natin ay makita nilang may kinabukasan sa pagpapakain sa atin (We want to raise the incomes of our farmers. We want to ease their hardships a little. We want them to see a future in feeding us),” said Pangilinan.

Pangilinan, who as Presidential Assistant on Agricultural Modernization from May 2014 to October 2015 was able to keep food prices low even in the face of drought-bringing El Niño, said enabling farmers to own their own post-harvest facilities would increase their incomes.

He said these post-harvest facilities would reduce post-harvest production losses.

“Bawat butil ng palay ay buhay. At bawat butil na naaaksaya ay kabawasan sa kita ng ating magsasaka (Every grain of rice represents life. And every grain wasted reduces the income of our farmers),” Pangilinan said.

“Kapag may sapat silang pasilidad gaya ng imbakan, traktora, at gilingan, mababawasan ang maaaksayang palay, mas malaki ang ani, mas lalaki ang kita ng ating mga magsasaka (When they have facilities like warehouses, tractors, and rice mills, rice wastage is reduced, yield is higher, our farmers’ incomes will increase),” he added.

Citing a study by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Pangilinan said that a total of 16.47% grain losses are incurred post-harvest, with drying and milling having the highest recorded losses with 36% and 34% share respectively.

After providing for every rice-producing district, the proposed measure mandates the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and farmer cooperatives, to build warehouses and rice mills in every rice-producing municipality and city in the Philippines.

It also mandates the Department of Trade and Industry, in consultation with DA, DAR, and farmer cooperatives, to provide the equipment and machinery required to operate these warehouses and rice mills as well as the necessary transport facilities.

In subsequent years, funding for the program shall be incorporated in the General Appropriations Act.

The Post-Harvest Facilities Support Act of 2019 is one of Pangilinan’s pro-farmer legislations.

For the 18th Congress, he has filed 12 other agriculture- and environment-related bills. They are: Senate Bills 31 on Coco Levy Trust Fund, 32 on creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 34 on Organic Agriculture, 35 on Expanded Crop Insurance, 36 on Rainwater Management, 40 on Single-use Plastic Regulation, 256 on Agricultural Land Conversion Ban, 257 on Urban Agriculture, 263 on Solid Waste Importation Ban, 423 on Food Waste Reduction, 638 on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Incentives, and 639 on National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation.

Pangilinan believes that agriculture is the key to Philippine progress. He authored the recently signed Sagip Saka Act of 2019 which links farmers directly to buyers like government offices, to eliminate middlemen and effectively raise farmers’ incomes via entrepreneurial programs.