Fund should go directly to farmers: Kiko
MANILA – After launching its P15,000 loan program for farmers, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced possible tariff hike in imported rice to help curb the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law — a suggestion welcomed by Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
“Our imports for the first half of 2019 already passed the threshold provided by law which resulted in over P9 billion in collected tariffs by the BoC (Bureau of Customs). Malaki ang kinita ng gobyerno sa mga taripa, ngunit hindi ito nadadama ng ating mga magsasaka. Walang silbi ang kita kung hindi ito umaabot sa lahat ng sektor ng lipunan. Kailangang baguhin ang sistema (The government earned a lof from tariffs, but it cannot be felt by the rice farmers. Earnings have no meaning if it does not reach all sectors of society. We need to change the system),” said Pangilinan, former food security secretary.
The rice tariff hike was proposed by DA Secretary William Dar in an interview with the ANC on September 11 as part of the department’s efforts to help rice farmers cope with the Rice Tariffication Law.
Current tariff on imported rice is 35%, but economists say 70% is the rate fair to local rice farmers.
Farmers around the country have reported palay farmgate prices at as low as P7 per kilo, or P5 lower than the P12 per kilo production cost.
The DA loan program provides a P15,000 loan for farmers farming one hectare and below with no interest. However, this only benefits 100,000 of the 2.1 million rice farmers nationwide.
“Kailangang hanapin natin lahat ng posibleng solusyon para tulungan ang ating mga magsasaka. Dapat mayroong immediate assistance, at mayroon ding long-term na mga reporma upang ayusin kung paano ba dapat ipatupad ang rice liberalization. Pagpapatupad na walang agrabyado (We need to find all possible solution to help our farmers. There should be immediate assistance, as well as long-term reforms to fix the implementation of rice liberalization. Implementation where no one is taken advantage of),” Pangilinan said.
Last Thursday, the Liberal Party president filed a joint resolution to amend the Rice Tariffication Law and allow a P13-billion immediate cash assistance to rice farmers. He pointed to two possible sources of direct cash transfers to rice farmers: 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 5 March 2019 to 31 August 2019.
Yesterday, Liberal Party lawmakers filed the counterpart resolution at the House of Representatives, calling for all to unite for the immediate passage of the resolution.
Aside from immediate cash assistance and the increase in the current rice tariff, Pangilinan called on Filipino consumers to ask and buy local rice from their suki. He also proposed several legislative fixes, including the imposition of additional duties and cash-for-work programs of government.
Filipino rice farmers produce most (about 12 million tons) of the rice consumed in the country. Before the law, the maximum rice importation was just a small portion (1 to 1.8 million tons) of the rice Filipinos eat.
With 2.5 million tons of rice already imported this year and flooding the market, the palay of Filipino rice farmers in parts of the country are suffering from low selling price of their produce.