ABOUT 1.673 million small rice farmers would benefit from President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing into law of Republic Act 11598, otherwise known as the Cash Assistance To Filipino Farmers Act, according to Sen. Cynthia A. Villar.
It was signed by Pres. Duterte on Dec. 10, but the media was provided a copy of the new law only on Jan. 6 (Thursday).
An elated Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, thanked President Duterte for the law that would be a huge help to our farmers amid the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives.
She pointed out that the country’s rice farmers are continuously facing the challenges brought about by the liberalization of rice importation in 2019 and the series of destructive typhoons that hit their farms.
“I strongly believe that our farmers need more support and assistance to cope with the several challenges, especially now that we are in a pandemic, and their health is also at risk,” said Villar.
“Any amount we give to our farmers will be a big help to augment their income and improve their poor living condition,” she added.
Towards this end, she said, the state shall provide monetary assistance to the hardest hit segments of our small farmers in the form of actual giving of cash to them.
Under the new law, the Department of Agriculture (DA) can now give assistance to small rice farmers tilling two hectares of land and below until 2024. It can use funds from the annual tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
The new law also directs the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to directly remit to the DA the said excess funds.
At the end of each year, the BOC and DA are mandated to submit to Congress separate reports on the remittance of funds and actual fund disbursement.
Villar’s measure- Senate Bill No. 1927 or the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act of 2020 recommends that any amount in excess of the P10-billion RCEF collection by the BOC shall automatically be given as cash assistance to rice farmers tilling two hectares or less of rice land, estimated at 1.673 million as listed in the Registry System of Basic Sectors.
Villar said the excess collection in 2019 amounting to P2.135 billion and P5.408 billion in 2020 were already allocated as cash assistance to Filipino rice farmers under the General Appropriations Act of 2021.
In its September report, the BOC said it has recorded a collection from rice importation amounting to P11.69 billion in tariffs from the 1.74 million metric tons of rice imports from January to August this year, she noted.
The measure was passed by the House of Representatives on Sept. 15 last year and adopted by the Senate on Sept. 21.
According to Villar, the House version follows the provision under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that covers rice farmers owning two hectares of land and below.
RTL seeks to improve the Filipino rice farmers’ competitiveness and income in the wake of the local rice trade policy’s liberalization.