VP calls for long-term solution to farmers’ problems

Published September 24, 2019, 5:02 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By Raymund Antonio

Vice President Leni Robredo has called for the implementation of a long-term solution to the problems of Filipino farmers severely affected by the rice tariffication law.

Vice President Leni Robredo (OVP / MANILA BULLETIN)
Vice President Leni Robredo

While she acknowledged the efforts of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Robredo took note of the rice prices that plunged to as low as P8 per kilo, stressing the need to address the issue as soon as possible.

“Marami namang ginagawa iyong DA ngayon, Ina-a-appreciate naman iyon para ma-mitigate iyong effects, pero sana iyong pang long-term. Hindi lang na reactive dito sa nangyayari ngayon,” she said.

(The DA is currently doing many things to mitigate the effect. We appreciate that, but we hope it will be for long-term. It should not only reactive to what’s happening now.)

The Vice President, whose key advocacies include helping the marginalized sector, said safeguards must be immediately available for farmers, who are among the poorest in the country.

Robredo recalled the delayed distribution of cash grants by the government to indigent families to cushion the impact of the rising consumer prices due to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

“Iyong safety net niya magbibigay siya ng P200 a month. Pero alam natin na ang tagal na nilang nararamdaman iyong epekto, hindi pa nare-release. Parang nangyayari ulit ngayon,” she said.

(The safety net is the P200 a month. But we know it hasn’t been released even as they have felt the impact for a long time. It looked like it’s happening again.)

“At hindi pa napipirmahan iyong batas, iyon na iyong concern natin, ‘di ba, na sana kung mayroong safety nets, ibigay na in advance,” Robredo added.

(And long before the law was not signed, that was our concern, right, that if there were safety nets, these should have been given in advance.)

The Rice Tariffication Act or Republic Act (RA) 11203 allows unlimited importation of rice provided tariffs will be imposed on rice imports coming from neighboring countries.

A key mechanism for this is the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, a provision under RA 11203, which gives local rice farmers a P10-billion annual assistance.

RCEF is set up to make the domestic rice industry more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seeds, and more financing and extension services, among others.

Robredo, who is chair of the opposition Liberal Party, said the direct cash assistance would help the rice farmers.

The Vice President cited the joint resolution filed by LP lawmakers authorizing the use of the RCEF balance of P4 billion under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 budget and the P9-billion collected tariffs from rice imports.

Senator and LP president Francis Pangilinan also filed a counterpart resolution in the Senate.