RICE farmers are in dire need of assistance as many still grapple with the devastation caused by calamities and low palay prices, said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act awaits final Senate approval.
“Sa kabila ng paghagupit ng sunod-sunod na bagyo na bilyong pisong halaga ang winasak sa sektor ng agrikultura, patuloy pa rin pagbagsak ng presyo ng palay. Kaya naman nakapanlulumong isipin ang hirap na dinaranas ngayon ng ating mga magsasaka,” Pangilinan said.
“Kumbaga sa maysakit, nasa kritikal na kondisyon sila ngayon. Emergency ito dahil dito rin nakasalalay ang ating food security,” he added.
Senate Bill 1927 or the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act of 2020 authorizes the Department of Agriculture to use the annual tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) for direct cash assistance to farmers owning one hectare or less of rice land until 2024.
Pangilinan is a co-author and a co-sponsor of the bill.
As stated in the Rice Tariffication Law, “if the annual tariff revenues from rice importation exceeds P10 billion in any given year within the six-year period following the effectivity of the this Act, the excess tariff revenues shall be earmarked by Congress and included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of the following year.”
The law also states that the excess tariff revenues shall be used for Rice Farmer Financial Assistance, Titling of Agricultural Rice Lands, Expanded Crop Insurance Program on Rice, and Crop Diversification Program.
The proposed measure, Senate Bill 1927, mandates the use of the excess tariff revenue automatically for direct cash assistance to rice farmers.
Last year, Pangilinan filed a similar measure, Joint Resolution No. 2 which seeks to authorize the use of the RCEF as a special emergency fund for direct cash assistance to rice farmers. Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez then expressed his support for the measure, but unfortunately it was not taken up at the Senate floor.
According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the average farmgate price of palay during the 3rd week of November amounted to P15.63/kg, 0.4% lower from its average price in the same week in 2019.
Unfortunately, palay prices went down to as low as P10.71/kg in Cavite and Quezon Province and P11/kg in Bulacan.
“Dahil bagsak presyo, bagsak din ang kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka kaya umaasa tayo na buo ang magiging suporta ng ating mga kasamahan sa Senado para maiahon sila sa pagkalugi at makapagpaabot ng dagdag na tulong sa kabila ng mga hinaharap nilang suliranin sa panahon ngayon,” Pangilinan said.
The Senate is set to vote on the measure later today, Monday.