By Hannah Torregoza
Re-electionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has called on the government to ensure that support and benefits for farmers under the newly enacted Rice Tariffication Act reach farm workers to help them cope with its impact to their livelihood.
The newly enacted law aims to lift the quantitative restrictions on rice imports to lower the cost of rice to a level more affordable for Filipinos.
“The government must ensure that support measures under the law will be fully realized for the benefit of our local rice farmers,” Angara said while campaigning in New Ecija, which is dubbed as the “rice granary of the Philippines.”
Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act lifts the import restrictions on rice, subject to 35 percent tariff for rice from the ASEAN and 50 percent for rice from non-ASEAN countries.
Angara assured that the law has built-in safeguards to protect local farmers from the impact of a free flow of imports.
Likewise, the law mandates the creation of a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) that has an initial funding of P10- included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The RCEF seeks to provide various forms of assistance to rice farmers, such as development of inbred rice seeds, rice farm equipment, and skills enhancement.
The fund will also serve as a special safeguard to protect the rice industry, which will be distributed, accordingly – 50 percent for machinery and equipment; 30 percent for rice seed development, propagation and promotion; 10 percent for expanded rice credit assistance; and 10 percent for rice extension services.
President Duterte signed the measure into law last February 14. The said law strips the National Food Authority (NFA) of its regulatory powers.