MANILA, Philippines – Sixteen legislators from the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) filed a joint resolution that would amend the rice tariffication law and allow the government to use P13.19 billion as direct cash assistance to rice farmers.
The LP legislators filed Joint Resolution (JR) No. 15 on Wednesday, September 11, amid the plummeting prices of rice that are hurting the livelihood of thousands of Filipino rice farmers. Senator Francis Pangilinan, sitting LP president, also filed his counterpart joint resolution in the Senate.
According to the LP lawmakers, the government may source their proposed cash aid from the P4-billion balance of the P10 billion that was appropriated for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) under the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2019 budget.
Another P9.19 billion could be sourced from the Bureau of Customs’ collected tariff revenues from rice importation from March 5 to August 31, 2019.
In total, the LP legislators want P13.19 billion to be used as direct cash assistance for rice farmers.
“Kailangan ng paspasang solusyon sa hinaharap ngayon ng ating mga magsasaka. Maaaring para sa atin ay maliit lang ang P5, pero ang P5 ito ang magtatakda kung makakakain ba o magugutom ang ating mga magsasaka,” said Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez Sato.
(We need an urgent solution to the problems our farmers are currently facing. P5 might be small for us, but for our farmers, P5 could spell the difference whether or not they will go hungry.)
Farmgate prices of palay have reportedly dropped to as low as P7 per kilo in some areas, with critics pinning the blame on the passage of the rice tariffication law that replaced the old import quotas with tariffs. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Plummeting rice prices: How will our rice farmers cope?)
Small farmers affected by the rice tariffication law have been given the option to avail of zero-interest loans, instead of the government providing them with conditional cash transfers. (READ: What you can do to help Filipino rice farmers)
“There is no point to interventions that will benefit only a small portion of those affected. We need something direct, immediate, and large-scale,” Sato said.
If passed, JR No. 15 would leave it to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to decide on the procedure, guidelines, and distribution system for the cash aid. The DA would also be required to give a monthly report to the 18th Congress regarding the RCEF.
JR No. 15 would have the full force and effect of the law if it hurdles Congress and is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Amid the decreasing palay prices, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House is likely to realign at least P2 billion under the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 so the DA can buy more stocks from rice farmers.
The 16 LP legislators who filed JR No. 15 are:
- Stella Luz Quimbo, Marikina 2nd District
- Edcel Lagman, Albay 1st District
- Jose Christopher Belmonte, Quezon City 6th District
- Francis Gerald Abaya, Cavite 1st District
- Isagani Amatong, Zamboanga del Norte 3rd District
- Emmanuel Billones, Capiz 1st District
- Gabriel Bordado Jr, Camarines Sur 3rd District
- Edgar Chatto, Bohol 1st District
- Paul Daza, Northern Samar 1st District
- Raul del Mar, Cebu City 1st District
- Edgar Erice, Caloocan City 2nd District
- Mujiv Hataman, Basilan
- Jocelyn Limkaichong, Negros Oriental 1st District
- Romulo Peña, Makati 1st District
- Josephine Ramirez Sato, Occidental Mindoro
- Alfonso Umali Jr, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District
Read a full copy of JR No. 15 below: