Senator Cynthia Villar has demanded for an “accounting” of the funds intended to help farmers cope with the lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice imports.
She specifically cited the P500 million spent for the inbred seeds reportedly distributed to rice-producing provinces even as Region 3 was left out.
“For the inbred seeds alone, we spent P500 million, but how come Region 3 was excluded when it has some of the biggest rice-producing provinces,” Villar said.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, also directed the Department of Budget and Management to return the P4 billion intended for the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
While the DBM released P5 billion in December last year for the RCEF, only P1 billion went to the program providing farmers access to cheap credit through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines this year.
During Villar’s committee hearing on RCEF, the budget department promised to release the remaining P4 billion to complete the P10-billion fund.
Under the rice tariffication law, farmers will be given P10 billion a year for the next six years under the RCEF, which will be obtained from the collected tariffs to boost their productive capacities.
“Although they might say they spent it because RCEF is yet to be passed then, they should have waited and not spent it on other matters. I want the Department of Agriculture to account for the remaining P4 billion and also to make sure that P4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF,” the senator said.
Villar’s committee was also informed that very little of the initial release of funds for the RCEF went to farmers, with 80 percent captured by the DA National Rice Program.
Villar warned against the slow disbursement of the RCEF, saying it will not improve the competitiveness of the domestic agriculture sector if it is not fully implemented.
“In this age of liberalization, our farmers will continue to fear competition because they were not given the chance to improve their ways,” she said.
“Now that Philippine authorities can no longer limit the entry of imported rice, we impose tariffs and collect the amount to spend for programs that will help improve our farmers’ productivity and profitability under the RCEF,” Villar added.