General Santos City – Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao on Sunday sought an inquiry on the use of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as he deplored flaws on Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the
“Rice Tariffication Law.”
The senator pressed for the probe amid “the desperate pleas by the country’s 11 million farmers who are barely surviving because of the slump in the farm gate price of palay (unmilled rice).”
Pacquiao said farmers and farmers’ organizations sought his help to address the matter as they blamed the Rice Tariffication Law in the decline of the farm gate price of palay.
He lamented that many farmers had stopped planting rice or had completely abandoned farming.
During the first week of September, former Aggie Secretary Manny Pinol shared in his Facebook page that Mindanao-wide farmers, including the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) of which he heads, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Murad Ebrahim, various congressmen, governors and mayors who comprise Regional Development Councils and private sector representatives, passed a unanimous resolution urging both Congress and the Senate to review and make amendments to Republic Act 11203 which allows the unimpeded entry of imported rice into the country.
The resolution was presented as among the issues and problems which could affect Mindanao’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic. The problem is now nationwide.
“Nalulungkot ako kasi isa ako sa mga author ng (I’m sad because I was one of the authors of the) Rice Tariffication Law. When the measure was presented and explained to me, I was assured that our farmers will not be left behind,” the senator added in a written statement.
Pacquiao said in exercising Senate’s oversight powers on the implementation of RA 11203, he wanted to find out how much taxes have been collected from rice imports, how much have been allocated to the RCEF and how much have been disbursed to help the farmers.
“I also want to find out if there might be a need to amend the Rice Tariffication Law because this early, the law is already showing very serious flaws,” he added.
He also wants to know if the National Food Authority is compliant with the provision of RA 11203 which requires the agency to buy only from local farmers at a fair price.
He noted that before the implementation of RA 11203, the farm gate price of palay was averaged at P21.39 per kilo, but when imported rice started flooding the market, it dropped to P17.88 per kilo.
Some farmers disclosed that in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Sorsogon, Tarlac and Laguna, the farm gate prices ranged from P7 per kilo up to P10 per kilo.
Pacquiao noted that RCEF was set up to improve rice farmers’ competitiveness and income amidst liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy that lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced it with tariffs, among others.
RCEF has a P10-billion annual appropriation for the next six years which will be drawn from taxes generated from rice import tariffs.
Based on the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulation, 50 percent of the RCEF will be used for the mechanization of Philippine agriculture purportedly to raise productivity, increase profitability and heighten global competitiveness.
The remaining 30 percent will be allotted for the Department of Agriculture’s seed program, while 10 percent will be used for the Expanded Rice Credit Assistance program which would fund loan facilities for farmers.
“On paper, napakaganda sana nitong RCEF na ito na nakalagay sa batas. Ang problema, mukhang wala namang nararamdaman ang ating mga farmers at wala namang nakakaabot sa kanila na biyaya (RCEF looked good on paper. The problem is farmers seemed to have been left behind). That is what I want to find out on this investigation,” Pacquaio said.
The senator said President Rodrigo Duterte’s vision of eradicating hunger would not come into fruition if the farmers who were responsible for food production did not have food on their own table. (Sovereignph.com)