LIKE a COVID-19 patient, Filipino farmers are in an emergency situation needing urgent assistance from the government to spare them from demise, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.
“Ang katumbas ng CPR para sa ating mga naghihingalong magpapalay, lalo na yung nakikisaka lang, ay direct cash assistance. Dusa sila dahil sa pagbagsak ng presyo ng palay at kawalan ng pagkakataong maghanapbuhay ngayong pandemya (The life-saving measure is direct cash assistance especially to the small farmers now suffering from the plunge in the prices of palay and from the lack of other livelihood opportunities due to the pandemic),” Pangilinan said.
Data as of July 2020 showed that tax collection from the Rice Tariffication Law has reached P10.728 billion. Taxes collected in excess of P10 billion needed to fund the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) may be allocated as cash assistance to farmers, said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“We have an excess collection of P728 million as of July and this should directly benefit the farmers especially in these hard times,” he said.
“We need to get the cash in their hands so they could continue to plant and put food on every Filipino’s table,” he added.
Farmers are seeking help from government as palay prices nosedived to as low as P12 a kilo from the P17 to P20 buying range of the National Food Authority.
Pangilinan has called the attention of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to address this phenomenon, which he said is expected to happen regularly after the Rice Tariffication Law was enforced last year. The law opened the Philippine market to unlimited rice imports at higher tax rates. In November last year, the Philippines became the world’s top importer of rice overtaking China.
The senator called on the Economic Cluster of the Cabinet to make an updated public accounting of the taxes coming in from rice imports and determine the excess funds that may be utilized to immediately give as cash aid to the farmers.
“If the collection as of July 2020 was P10.728 billion, it is definitely bigger three months later. The excess funds should benefit our farmers,” he said.
“Hindi pwedeng gutom ang nagpapakain sa atin. Kailangan silang matulungang magpakain sa ating lahat,” Pangilinan said.