House panel vows to act on bill proposing use of 4Ps rice subsidy to purchase palay from farmers

Published January 11, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The House Committee on Appropriations has vowed to expeditiously act on a bill seeking to authorize the use of the rice subsidy as provided for under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program  (4Ps) in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA)  for the purchase of palay (unhusked rice)  from farmers.

On a vote of 261 to 18, the Senate and the House of Representatives decide to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2017 in a joint, special session at the Batasang Pambansa yesterday. Inset photo shows Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (left) and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presiding over the session that lasted more than seven hours. (Jansen Romero, Alvin Kasiban)
House of the Representatives (Manila Bulletin File Photo)

Davao City Rep.  Isidro Ungab, chairman of the panel,  said they will tackle House Bill No.  5583, principally authored by Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, when Congress resumes session on January 20.

“HB 5583 will be heard by the Committee on Appropriations when we resume our session,” he told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.

“It was referred to my Committee when everybody was busy for the 2020 GAB preparations particularly amending certain provisions of the 2019 budget,” Ungab noted.

It was the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, chaired by Quezon Rep.  Mark Enverga that referred the bill to the Ungab panel after approving it on December 11, 2019.

Enverga earlier batted for the plenary approval of Villafuerte’s measure.

HB 5583 mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA), to  buy palay from the local farmers and distribute rice subsidy in the form of actual rice, instead of cash assistance,  to qualified beneficiaries.

Villafuerte, principal author of the bill, sought the passage of the bill,  saying  that “the government must do its best to help local farmers cope with the liberalization of rice importation.”

During its December 11,2019 deliberations, the Enverga panel decided that only compliant beneficiaries of 4Ps will be entitled to the rice subsidy.

Under the CCT program,  the beneficiaries receive a monthly rice susidy amounting P600 or equivalent to 20 kilos of rice, apart from the P300 cash assistance they receive per month.

HB 5583 provides that the beneficiaries of the conditional cash tranfer shall be entitled to rice subsidy, which shall be given in actual kilos of rice, instead of cash.

The bill tasks the DSWD,  together with NFA and DA, to set the procedures and guidelines in the purchase of palay from farmers,  and distribution of rice to the 4Ps beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries shall receive their rice subsidy from the DSWD-designated outlets, it said.

The Department of Finance (DOF) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)  shall be involved in the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act.

Section 5 of the bill originally provides that the target areas shall be rice producing provinces of Pangasinan,  Ilocos Norte, Cagayan. Isabela,  Nueva Vizcaya,  Oriental and Occidental Mindoro,  Tarlac,  Nueva Ecija,  Zamboanga del Sur,  and Iloilo.

But, the Enverga panel decided to scrap such provision,  and decided that the proposed Act will cover all provinces which have very low prices of palay at a given time.

HB 5583  provides that a year-end report of the program implementation shall be submitted to the DSWD to both Houses of Congress to determine its performance and effectiveness.