Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao has called on the Senate to look into the implementation of the Rice Tariffication law especially the utilization of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is supposed to help improve rice farmers’ competitiveness and income.
Pacquiao said a lot of farmers and farmers’ organization, who are barely surviving the slump in the farm gate price of palay, have sought his help as they blame the law for the dramatic decline of the prices of palay in the country.
According to Pacquiao, many farmers have actually stopped planting rice or have completely abandoned farming.
“Nalulungkot ako kasi isa ako sa mga author ng (I’m said because I am one of the authors of the) Rice Tariffication law. When the measure was presented and explained to me, I was assured that our farmers will not be left behind,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
“Pero kung papakinggan mo ang ating mga magsasaka, talagang halos umiiyak na sila dahil sa baba ng bentahan ng palay. Napakarami sa ating mga kababayang magsasaka ang dumudulog sa atin upang magpasaklolo (But if you would listen to our farmers, they are crying for help due to the severe drop in local rice prices. So many of our farmers are now asking for our help),” Pacquiao said.
The senator noted that under the law, RCEF, with a P10-billion annual appropriation for six years, was established to improve farmers’ competitiveness and income as the government moved to liberalize the Philippine rice trade policy and lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced it with tariffs.
Under the law’s implementing rules and regulations, 50 percent of the RCEF would be used for the mechanization of Philippine agriculture to raise productivity, increase profitability and heighten global competitiveness. Thirty percent of the RCEF would go to the Department of Agriculture’s seed program while the remaining 10 percent would be used for the Expanded Rice Credit Assistance program while another 10 percent would be used to provide farmers’ training.
“On paper, napakaganda sana iyong RCEF na ito na nakalagay sa batas. Ang problema, mukhang wala namang nararamdaman ang ating mga farmers at wala namang nakakaabot sa kanila na biyaya. (RCEF is a good program. But the problem is the farmers do not feel or receive such benefits). That is what I want to find out on this investigation,” Pacquiao said.
With a Senate inquiry, the senator said he wants to find out how much taxes have been collected from rice imports and how much has been allocated to the RCEF and have been disbursed to farmers.
“As one of the authors of this law, I would like to know if the law was really what it was meant to be. It was supposed to help our people because it would mean cheaper staple for every Filipino family. It was supposed to provide use the opportunity and the access to fund agricultural modernization,” he said.