Senator Cynthia Villar has assured that the government will continue to fund its assistance programs for local farmers amid the continued importation of rice and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Villar, in a statement, said there is no need for additional cash for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) since the Rice Tariffication Act already guarantees an annual ₱10-billion budget.
The chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Food Committee was commenting on the ₱8-billion fund requested by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its Rice Resiliency Project amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Department of Budget and Management released to the DA last April the requested fund, which included an allocation for “enhanced RCEF”.
“The RCEF does not need any additional budget allocated from the COVID-19 prevention,” Villar said.
She noted that the DA, aside from the RCEF, has a separate National Rice Program, which has a yearly P7 billion budget for buying fertilizer and hybrid seeds. Republic Act 11203, enacted last year, mandates the provision of an annual ₱10-billion budget to the RCEF for six years from the tariffs collected from rice imports.
The RCEF shall be used to help farmers compete with imported rice, by giving them farm equipment, inbred seeds, low-interest credit, and training.
The RCEF is expected to aid in lowering the cost of local rice.
“This cheaper supply of rice from our own rice farmer helps lower rice prices for Filipino consumers,” Villar said.
The government recently scrapped its planned government-to-government importation of 300,000 metric tons of rice after Vietnam lifted its ban on rice exports.
Vietnam is a major source of rice imports of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, about 2.26 million bags of certified inbred rice seeds have been distributed for free to rice farmers to help boost the country's rice production.
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Deputy Executive Director Flordeliza Bordey on Tuesday said seed delivery is already 90 percent of its target 2.5 million bags of certified inbred seeds for distribution this wet cropping season.
“We have already reached 968 municipalities or about 97 percent of our target 1,000 municipalities in 55 provinces,” Bordey said during the Laging Handa virtual presser.
She explained that farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture and are practicing transplanting method received one 20-kilogram (kg) bag of seed for every half hectare of cultivated area up to a maximum of six bags for those who have rice fields larger than 2.5 hectares.
Farmers practicing the directseeding method received two bags of seeds for every half hectare, she added.
The distribution of certified inbred seeds was done under the Seed Program of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which is a component of the Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law.
Under the law, P10 billion will be allocated every year for the next six years from 2019 for RCEF and will be allocated as follows: ₱5 billion for farm mechanization; ₱3 billion for high-yielding seeds; ₱1 billion for credit support; and ₱1 billion for training programs. (With a report from Ellalyn B. de Vera)