DUE to the huge damage to agriculture estimated to reach more than 600 million by typhoon Maring that battered some areas of the country, Sen. Cynthia A. Villar cited the urgent need of cash aid to Filipino farmers.
Based on the latest data from the Department of Agriculture (DA), typhoon Maring had affected 29,063 farmers and fishers, with a volume of production loss at 36,354 metric tons (MT) and damaged 32,882 hectares of agricultural areas in Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol Region, and Western Visayas.
Aside from the latest typhoon, Villar noted that the low palay prices and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the need to provide financial assistance to farmers whose lives and income were also severely affected by these challenges.
The Cash Assistance to Filipino Rice Farmers Act of 2020 that would benefit over 1.673 million small rice farmers is still awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Villar, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Food Committee, initiated the move to institutionalize the giving to the rice farmers the excess collections from the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) collection of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
“The Cash Assistance for Filipino Rice Farmers Act of 2020 recommends that any amount in excess of the P10-B RCEF collection by the BOC shall automatically be given as cash assistance to rice farmers who are tilling 2 hectares or less of rice land, which is estimated at 1.673 million as listed in the Registry System of Basic Sectors (RSBS),” said Villar.
This financial subsidy to farmers, Villar noted, is pursuant to the mandate of Republic Act 11203 or An Act Liberalizing the importation, Exportation or Trading of Rice or the Rice Tarification Law.
Villar said Filipino rice farmers are continuously facing the many challenges brought about by the liberalization of rice importation in 2019, the series of destructive typhoons that hit their farms and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“So I strongly believe that our farmers need more support and assistance to cope up with the several challenges, especially now that we are in a pandemic, and their health is also at risk,” she said.
“This would alleviate their living condition brought about the declining palay prices due to several factors and the coronavirus pandemic,” added Villar.
Towards this end, she said, the state shall provide monetary assistance to the hardest hit segments of our small farmers in the form of actual giving of cash to them.
Villar related that excess collection in 2019 amounting to P2.135 billion and the P5.408 billion in 2020 were already allocated as cash assistance to our rice farmers under the General Appropriations Act of 2021.
The BOC, In their September report, said it has recorded a collection from rice importation amounting to P11.69 billion in tariffs from the 1.74 million metric tons (MT) of rice imports from January to August this year.