The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) has assured of corruption-free and quality of rice farm equipment bought and distributed to rice farmers using the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).
Its top official stressed there is no corruption within the agency, which is new to receiving billions of money from RCEF.
“We are proud of the fact that here in PhilMech, we don’t have a record of corruption,” said PHilMech Executive Director Baldwin Jallorina.
In a virtual briefing, Jallorina said that all the farm equipment that was bought and being bought under RCEF, the collection of rice import tariff, all went through strict quality assurance testing.
He also assured that the equipment matches the needs of the farmers cooperatives and associations (FCAs) who are qualified to benefit from RCEF.
RCEF is the Philippine government’s top compromise for allowing unlimited rice importation in the country under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
Under the RTL, RCEF, on top of rice import tariff, is supposed to be injected with P10 billion every year from 2019 to 2024. Of this, P5 billion automatically goes to PhilMech to help the rice sector mechanize its operations.
For this year, PhilMech has P10-billion worth of RCEF money because it wasn’t able to procure last year.
Of this, P2 billion was already used to bid out and purchase farm equipment, while the auction and awarding was already finished for another P5 billion worth of machineries.
For the remaining P3 billion worth of equipment, the bidding process already started as well, and PhilMech is hoping to award supply contracts by the end of the year.
“We assure you that what we are buying is what the farmers need. We are sure about that,” Jallorina said.
“For the equipment that will be imported, these are branded ones. Their quality was tested. There are test reports for that. The same thing goes for our local manufacturers. Their products have been in the market for the last 30 years so we are sure of their quality,” he added.
Local think tank Action for Economic Reforms (AER) said the other day that of all the RCEF components, “mechanization is the [most] laggard”.
It also cautioned that pooling farm machineries alone is not enough, and that extension services, farm consolidation, and strategic clustering are integral in achieving economies of scale.
“Without these complementary programs, AER believes that the government would be throwing good money after bad, with the mechanization fund taking the biggest chunk of the RCEP allocation,” the think tank said.
Meanwhile, PhilMech Facility Management and Field Operations Division Chief Joel Dator said the agency had so far distributed 1,512 pieces of farm machines nationwide.
As of October 21, the farm machines delivered include 213 four-wheel tractors; 220 hand tractors; 376 floating tillers; 52 precision seeders; 106 walk behind transplanters; 118 riding type transplanters; 103 reapers; 310 combine harvesters; and 14 mobile rice mills.
According to Jallorina, 28 percent of these machines are imported from other countries like China, India, Japan.
He also noted that the maintenance of machinery will no longer be funded by PhilMech that is why the government first provides training to members of qualified FCAs on how to use and maintain the equipment that will be distributed to them.
“For the repair and maintenance of the equipment, we are requiring FCAs that have financial capabilities,” he added.
When asked whether the agency will also provide equipment to FCAs with poor farmer members, he said yes but only in the latter batch of distribution.
Right now, there are more than 1,000 FCAs across 900 provinces that are already qualified beneficiaries of RCEF’s mechanization component. An FCA is required to have members with minimum combined landholdings of about 50 hectares.