President-elect Bongbong Marcos wants to increase the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is a key component of Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
This, as Marcos prepares to face a looming food crisis that would undoubtedly test his administration’s resolve once he officially takes over Malacañang on June 30, 2022.
Asked in a press conference Monday, June 20 on whether or not he was open to amending the three-year-old RTL, Marcos basically identified the RCEF provision of the law.
“If there is one part of the Rice Tariffication [Law], it is the area wherein we reinvest and the amount of funding that we reinvest into our, for our farmers, and for mechanization, and for post-harvest facilities, which is part of the rice tariffication wherein there is P10 billion that is returned to the farming community,” he told reporters.
“Maybe we can have a look at that and see maybe that now that we are in a situation where we very much have to boost production and we very much have to support the farmers. Maybe we can look at that and hopefully increase it,” the incoming leader said.
The RTL, which did away with quantitative restrictions for rice imports in exchange for tariffs, was enacted in February 2019.
Through RCEF, the law has facilitated the mechanization of the local farming process and provided farmers with quality inbred seeds, among other types of assistance meant to increase yield.
The RTL wasn’t very popular upon its enactment–and it still isn’t in some quarters. Critics branded it the “rice import liberalization law,” since it basically opened the local market to cheaper, imported rice.
Marcos said that, at the very least, the entirety of the P10-billion RCEF must be used for the sake of farmers.
“Yung accounting doon sa rice tariffication yung P10 billion na yun kung minsan mayroon pang unspent eh, so pwede pang gamitin yun (Sometimes we find out after accounting that there are unspent parts of the P10 billion, so we can still use that),” he said.
Marcos, in the same presser, announced that he would take on the portfolio of Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary, a move that was praised by Camiguin Governor-elect Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte.