By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Imee Marcos has urged the government to release P37 billion for the purchase of palay from local rice farmers.
Marcos on Saturday said it was urgent for the government to buy unmilled rice from farmers who are hurting from low farmgate prices due to the Rice Tariffication Law.
“Our fear is that local rice will flood the market when harvest season begins next week, so the NFA (National Food Authority) should already be buying palay from local farmers while prices are relatively higher, or we’d be done for,” Marcos said in a statement.
The senator said she filed Friday proposed Senate Joint Resolution No. 4, which urges the Department of Agriculture (DA) and NFA to immediately purchase palay, with funds from subsidy programs of the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of National Defense (DND), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Marcos claimed that the DSWD, alone, has P33.9 billion that can be used to buy palay and give rice instead of cash to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
She added that P2.9 billion more from the DND and the DILG can be used to buy rice allocations for the military, police and other uniformed personnel.
DA Secretary William Dar earlier said that the DA and DSWD were finalizing an agreement to use the latter’s P28-billion rice subsidy fund under the 4Ps.
During the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food’s hearing on the implementation of the rice tariffication law late August, senators scolded the NFA for supposedly not buying rice from local farmers and instead hoarding some four million sacks of imported rice in its warehouses.
Farmers groups’ are blaming the cheaper rice imports allowed by the enactment of the Republic Act 11203 for the decline in the farmgate prices of rice, affecting further the measly income of the country’s rice farmers.