Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today filed a resolution urging government to immediately release massive subsidies and study the implementation of palay-buying operations to provide relief to rice farmers severely affected by falling prices of rice.
In proposed Senate Resolution No. 152, Hontiveros said that the executive branch must at the soonest implement emergency measures to address “the economic shock of rice farmers, in light of the crisis of emergency proportions they now face.”
“It has since become evident based on government data and testimony from palay farmers themselves that the mismanagement by relevant officials and delayed launch of rice competitiveness enhancement program and safety nets for farmers has meant that things will become far worse for our rice farmers before they become better,” she said.
Hontiveros said that first among the measures government must implement is the release of the remaining funds under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) in the 2019 national budget and the 2019 rice import tariff revenues –estimated to be between P3.5 billion and P6.5 billion – as direct cash assistance for poor rice farmers all over the country.
With nearly half of rice farmers – or nearly 400,000 out of 987,000 rice farming households – nationwide considered poor, the senator said that government must allocate at least P5 billion per year as income support for the farmers and their families. Until the said cash grants are issued, Hontiveros also said that government must study and initiate palay buying operations where government via the National Food Authority (NFA) will buy palay stocks from farmers using available funds, to “ensure recovery of the average production cost by farmers in each province.”
To address the influx of imported rice -which caused the sharp decline in prices of rice in the market- Hontiveros added that Malacanang must also impose safeguard duties “of up to 80 percent additional tariffs on rice imports exceeding the minimum access volume, on top of present tariffs for rice imports.”