In aiming to mitigate the declining prices of palay (unhusked rice) and the COVID-19 pandemic in the agricultural sector, Congress recently passed a measure providing monetary subsidy for small rice farmers.
Last December 10, 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte signed measure as Republic Act 11598, or the Cash Assistance to Filipino Farmers Act, which will grant cash aid to 1.673 million small rice farmers.
RA 11598 was passed by the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 9950 on September 15, 2021 and adopted by the Senate as Senate Bill No. 1927 on September 21, 2021.
As the main proponent of the measure in the House, ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Go Yap, also legislative caretaker of the lone district of Benguet province, said: “I commend the promptness of the President to heed the call in fast-tracking the provision of monetary assistance to our small rice farmers in lieu of their apparent and continuous obstacles, particularly the liberalization of rice importation in 2019 and the series of destructive typhoons that hit their farms every year.”
“Such act from the Chief Executive coincides with my purpose of saving our small rice farmers, especially when I first filed this measure in Congress,” Yap added.
The new law mandates the Department of Agriculture (DA) to give assistance to small rice farmers, which include those who are tilling two hectares of land and less, until 2024.
The program’s funding shall originate from the Department’s funds from the annual tariff revenues in excess of the P10 billion budget of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
“As the legislative caretaker of Benguet, where a significant portion of our population are small rice farmers, President Duterte’s initiative and sense of urgency serves as beacon of hope for them and for the rest of our small rice farmers in the country as they immediately need support in light of the current state of declining palay prices and the crippling effects of COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmaker said.
Determined to accelerate more programs for the agricultural sector, the solon highlighted the constitutional mandate to recognize the rights of farmers and to provide support in agriculture through a wide array of assistance and services.
“Developing our agricultural sector and nurturing our farmers is tantamount to ensuring that government subsidy is available, at the same time sustainable, to enable this sector reach economic progress—a pursuit that will definitely be achieved if we would be able to institute more inclusive programs to our farmers whose majority belongs below the poverty line,” Yap said.