Pangilinan backs House panel’s move to use surplus rice tariff as cash aid to farmers

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday lauded the House Committees on Appropriations and Food and Agriculture for approving the measure that seeks to use the annual rice tariff revenues in excess of P10-billion as cash assistance to farmers.

Pangilinan said the move is timely and lawmakers should expedite the passage of House Bill No. 8964 or the proposed Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers bill into law.

“We should act fast to provide direct cash assistance to Filipino farmers who continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unli-rice import policy of the government,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“We laud the House committees on appropriations and food and agriculture for their approval of House Bill 8964, authorizing the Department of Agriculture (DA) to use its annual rice tariff revenues in excess of P10-billion for the direct provision of cash assistance to farmers,” he said.

Pangilinan said he pushed for the same measure in August 2019, when he called for a review of the Rice Tariffication Law, specifically on the use of the P10-billion Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

RCEF, which is funded by tariffs generated by rice imports, was established to make the domestic rice policy more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seeds, and more financing and extension services, among others.

“Tama itong pinasang bill sa House. Maiibsan nito ant tindi ng pinagdadaanan n gating mga magpapapalay sa kabila ng pagbabab ng presyo ng palay at ng pandemya (The House passed the right bill. It will help ease the woes of our rice farmers who are trying to cope with low rice prices and the pandemic),” he pointed out.

While there is a pandemic, Pangilinan said the only tangible support the government can provide the country’s farmers is cash assistance that would help them cope with the liberalized regime and parry the impact of low palay prices due to imports surge.

“Parati din nakikipag sapalaran ang mga magsasaka natin sab anta ng sobrang init at mga bagyo (Our farmers are also trying to persevere even under a drought or typhoons),” he said.

“So habang tinitingnan natin ang mga intervention na makakatulong sa pangmatagalan para sa magpapalay aat sa ating mga unli-rice kumain, ang cash aid ngayon ay makakasiguro sa araw araw n gating mga magpapapalay (So while we are looking for interventions that could help them and us who like unli-rice, a cash aid for now will help them cope with the everyday expenses of our farmers),” stressed Pangilinan, a former food security and agriculture modernization secretary.