A lawmaker on Tuesday said the release of P5 billion to farmers late last year will help them brace for an extended dry spell in at least 19 provinces this year.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the funds were released ahead of the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the rice tariffication law that mandates the government to provide a specific fund for agriculture development.
Under the rice tariffication law, the importation of rice was liberalized but the law mandates a creation of a fund to help farmers who will be adversely affected by the liberalization of rice importation.
He said the provincial government of CamSur declared a state of calamity as the latest dry spell has affected a critical portion of the province.
Villafuerte suggested that P1 billion to P2 billion of the P5-billion fund released by the DBM—ahead of the establishment of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund under RA 11203—be used for the procurement of drought-tolerant rice seeds to help farmers tide over the projected El Niño spell in 2019.
“The DA can procure the drought-tolerant rice seed varieties in time for the succeeding cropping seasons to mitigate the effects of the dry spell on the farm sector,” Villafuerte, who is a co-author of RA 11203, said.
According to the International Rice Research Institute, there are eight drought-tolerant rice seed varieties available to farmers for highland and lowland planting.
Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, recalled that Budget department said it had released a Special Allotment Release Order to the DA amounting to P5 billion last December for the National Rice Program, which will complement the would-be RCEF, the funds of which are to be come from the upcoming rice import tariff collections. Maricel V. Cruz
On top of adjusting to a rice-tariffied regime, farmers also have to cope with this year’s El Nino phenomenon, with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) forecasting that drought to likely hit Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, Rizal, Antique, Iloilo, Bataan, Northern and Western Samar and Dinagat Islands.
Earlier, Villafuerte said the RCEF’s allocation of P10 billion will help the agriculture sector modernize and gain access to lending facilities.
As provided under the bill, the RCEF will have a minimum annual allocation of P10 billion for six years, and tariff revenues from rice imports in excess of P10 billion shall be appropriated by the Congress for this sector, based on a menu of programs in the rice tariffication law.
Under the bill, the proposed fund will be allocated as follows: 50% for grants to farmers’ associations, registered rice cooperatives, and local government units in the form of rice equipment, to be implemented by the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech); and 30% for the development, propagation and promotion of inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and organizations, to be implemented by the Philippine Rice Research Institution (PhilRice).
The 10 percent will be in the form of credit at preferential rates to rice farmers and cooperatives to be managed by the Land Bank (Landbank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP); and the remaining 10% for extension services to teach rice farmers modern methods of farming, seed production, and farm mechanization, to be administered by PhilMech, PhilRice, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).