MANILA -- Sen. Cynthia Villar is seeking a legislative inquiry into P4 billion in funds that should have gone to programs for increasing the production of local farmers under the rice tariffication law.
Farmers should get a total of P10 billion yearly from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) sourced from tariff collections on imported rice, said Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture and food committee.
The budget department released P5 billion to the Department of Agriculture in December last year, even before the rice tariffication law was signed in February 2019, she said.
"Hindi nila (DA) dinala sa RCEF kasi wala pa raw iyung batas. Sana hindi ginasta at pinaghintay sa batas," she said.
(They did not put it into the RCEF because the law was not yet signed. They should not have spent it and instead waited for the law.)
Of the P5 billion given to the DA, P1 billion went to the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines for loans to farmers, said the senator.
"Ang natirang hindi ma-account, P4 billion," she said.
(The remaining funds that cannot be accounted for is P4 billion.)
"Maraming naninira so might as well do an investigation at malaman ng mga tao ano ba iyung Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. Parang information campaign ito para hindi sila maloloko," she added.
(There are many critics so so might as well do an investigation and let the people know what the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund is. This will be like an information campaign so they will not be fooled.)
Local farmers spend P12 to produce a kilo of rice, while their counterparts in Vietnam only put up a capital of P6 because their operations are already mechanized, unlike in the Philippines, said the senator.
Half of RCEF is intended for buying farm equipment like tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, and irrigation pumps that will be given as a grant-in-kind primarily to rice farmer cooperatives, Villar added in a statement.
The law also allocates part of the RCEF to skills training for farmers and the development of seeds that will increase their yield, she said.
IMPACT ON FARMERS, RICE MILLS
Sen. Francis Pangilinan also sought an inquiry into the rice tariffication law following media reports that some 200,000 farmers have stopped working on food production and 4,000 rice mills have stopped operating.
With more imported rice entering the market, the farmgate price of local rice fell to P17.77 per kilo in June from P21.39 per kilo last year, he said, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
"Mabilis at brutal ang epekto ng batas sa ating mga magsasaka pero mabagal kung meron man ang implementasyon ng mga probisyon nitong naglalayong alwan ang matitinding epekto nito. Nasaan na ang sinasabing tulong mula sa sampung bilyong pisong Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund?" he said in a statement.
(The impact of the law on our farmers is swift and brutal but the implementation of the provisions aimed at easing this severe effect is slow if non-existent. Where is the help from the RCEF?)
MILLERS GROUP WARNS OF RISING PORK, CHICKEN PRICES
Some millers cannot sell the rice they bought from farmers because prices have dropped, said Amelito Coronel, president of the Nueva Ecija Rice Millers Association.
Unable to release their stocks in the market, millers may buy less rice from local farmers in the next harvest season, he said.
In turn, there will be less milling by-products like "darak" or bran, the hard outer layer of grain used as an ingredient in chicken and pig feed, said Coronel.
"'Pag tumaas [ang presyo] n'yan, mamahal ang baboy, mamahal ang manok. Chain reaction iyan e," he said.
(If its price increases, the price of pork and chicken will increase, too. That's a chain reaction.)
The government, he said, should give at least P30,000 to farmers for every hectare they till, to offset hit on profits.