By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The measure allowing government agencies to convert cash assistance allocation to funds that would be used to buy palay directly from local farmers for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and other rice subsidy programs has been approved by the Senate Monday.
Voting 21-0-0, senators passed on third and final reading Senate Joint Resolution No. 8, which seeks to authorize the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to give rice, instead of cash, to 4Ps beneficiaries and help Filipino farmers cope with the unimpeded importation of rice under the Rice Tariffication Law signed in March this year.
Under the measure, the rice to be distributed should be purchased “directly” from local rice farmers.
The 4Ps, which currently has about 4.1 million beneficiaries, grants the rice subsidy in the form of financial assistance amounting to P600 per month, which is equivalent to 20 kilos of rice.
This is on top of the cash assistance given to the same beneficiaries of P300 per month or P3,600 per year.
The resolution stated that the DSWD, being the implementing agency for the 4Ps, received the largest fund of the P33.9 billion that Congress has allotted for rice subsidies. The agency has P6.97 billion remaining for the rice subsidy program, it noted.
Aside from the 4Ps, the resolution also mentioned that the remaining P2.89 billion allotted for rice subsidy programs for military uniformed personnel in the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority could be used to purchase rice instead.
Local government units, it added, also have funds to buy locally-produced rice for their respective programs and establishments.
Apart from the DSWD, those that would also be authorized to distribute rice, instead of money, were the Department of Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation, Department of Enviroment and Natural Resources and LGUs.
Farmers have been complaining about the declining farm gate prices of palay since the enactment of Republic Act No. 11203, more known as the Rice Tariffication Law.
Under Section 8 of the law, the National Food Authority is mandated to buy palay from local farmers for the maintenance of its rice buffer stock.
Senate Agriculture Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar, who authored the Rice Tariffication Law in the Upper Chamber, sponsored the joint resolution.
A counterpart measure in the House of Representatives was recently approved at the committee level.