Agriculture Secretary Manuel Piñol asked the Budget Department to immediately release the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to help farmers affected by the El Niño dry spell.
Piñol said while the DBM released P5 billion to support the rice program in December last year, it was not a part of the P10-billion RCEF, contrary to the claim of the National Economic and Development Authority.
Piñol said acting Budget Secretary Janet Abuel assured him that the agency would release a part of RCEF this year. He said of the P10-billion budget for RCEF, only the P1-billion credit component was available with Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.
“There was an initial confusion on the total amount still to be released by DBM because on Dec. 28, 2018, DBM released P5 billion for ‘Support to the National Rice Program’,” said Piñol. He said this was different from RCEF which was mandated by law that became effective only in March 2019.
He denied rumors accusing the Agriculture Department of mishandling RCEF which would be collected from rice import tariffs under the Rice Tariffication Law that opened rice importation in the country.
Piñol said the money released in December was immediately downloaded by the rice-producing regions and disbursed according to programs approved by the Budget Department.
RCEF is a major provision of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law which became final in March 2019.
Under the law, about P10 billion would be allocated for RCEF including P5 billion for the mechanization program to be handled by Philippine Center for Post-Harvest and Mechanization; P3 billion for inbred seeds to be managed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute; P1 billion for credit; and P1 billion for technical skills development and training.