Gov’t grants farmers P10-B under the Rice Tarrification Bill

Gov’t grants farmers P10-B under the Rice Tarrification Bill

FILE PHOTO: Farmers

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday (November 28) ratified the report of the bicameral conference committee on the rice tariffication bill.

The bill aims to lift quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

Instead, importers will be required to pay 35% levy or tariff on rice imports.

“Talagang we have to liberalize because it’s the provision of our agreement with the WTO so we have to tariffy to protect our farmers. Kasi kapag walang tariff, mas mura talaga ang import and the tariff proceeds will go to them for programs that make them competitive,” explained Senator Cynthia Villar, the Senate chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

The measure aims to prevent another shortage of rice supply and to ensure that the low price of commercial rice is maintained in local markets.

Critics of the bill argue that with restrictions on rice importation being lifted under the bill, there will be an oversupply of imported rice in local markets and the ones to suffer the burden first would be the local farmers.

But Villar allayed the farmers’ fears on the matter, saying the government has allotted a P10 billion fund to help them.

“Magbibigay po ang gobyerno ng sampung bilyong piso every year sa susunod na anim na taon para kayo ay maging competitive against import,” Villar assured.

On November 22, the bicameral committee approved the allocation of P10 billion to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund.

This will be utilized for the improvement of farm machinery and equipment, seed production, training for rice farming, and loan programs among other means to help the local farmers.

Several farmers expressed gratitude to the efforts of government to help them sustain their livelihood.

“Iyon po ang pinakagusto kong natalakay ni Ma’am Senator Cythia Villar na magkakaroon ng farm school dahil karamihan ng mga farmers ay wala pang sapat na edukasyon tungkol sa crop production, inter cropping, multicrop production,” said Association of San Felipe Farmers president Joely Reguidon.

“Malaking bagay, dahil nagbibigay sila ng mga traktora, hindi masyadong mahal ang upa, pero mas maganda kung gagabayan ng gobyerno yung upa ng traktora. Kasi sa amin wala na kaming kalabaw, hindi namin naaaffordan yung traktora,” added Rolan, also a member of the farmers’ group.

As of press time, the Rice Tariffication Bill is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte before it fully becomes a law. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

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