Villar asks new DA Secretary to prioritize return of P4B to RCEF

Sen. Cynthia Villar asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to make sure they will return the funds intended for the programs that will help farmers after the expiration of the quantitative restriction on rice imports.

Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5 billion December last year in anticipation of the enactment into law of Republic Act 11203 or the law creating the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Of the amount, only P1 billion went to RCEF's program providing farmers access to cheap credit through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

With the appointment of William Dar as Secretary of DA, Villar also expressed hope that the department will now be more supportive of the full implementation of the law and that the new secretary will prioritize the return of P4 billion to RCEF.

"Kahit sabihin pa nila na kaya ginastos iyon dahil hindi pa napapasa ang RCEF, dapat naghintay sila at hindi ginastos sa ibang bagay. I want DA to account for the remaining P4 billion and also to make sure that P4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF," Villar said.

Villar added the amount is needed to jumpstart the programs enumerated in the law, which was already delayed by the late approval of the 2019 General Appropriations Act.

RA 11203, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019, replaced the quantitative restriction on rice imports with tariffs. The collected amount will be given to farmers to improve their competitiveness through RCEF.

"Ang ayaw nating mangyari, sasabihin nila na P5 billion na lang ang natitira for RCEF this year. Hindi po tama iyon, labag po iyon sa batas," Villar said.

Under RCEF, P5 billion will be allocated to the Philippine Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) for the procurement of farm equipment to be distributed to 947 rice producing towns in the Philippines.

P3 billion will be allocated to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to teach farmers how to produce inbred seeds, which will increase their yield by up to 50 percent from 4 metric tons per hectare to 6 MTN/ha.

RCEF will also give P1 billion to LBP and DBP for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements.

The remaining P1 billion is allocated to PhilMech, PhilRice, the Agriculture Training Institute and the Technical Skills Development Authority for skills training of farmers in rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, farm machinery servicing and maintenance and knowledge and technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.

Source: Senate of the Philippines