Sen. Cynthia Villar today said that up to P4.6 billion will be distributed to 1.1 million farmers as cash assistance to alleviate their suffering brought about by the pandemic and the falling palay prices.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, presided over the hearing on Senate Joint Resolution No. 12 on Friday, which seeks to authorize the use of excess rice importation collection of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for year 2020 as cash assistance to farmers who are tilling one hectare and below.
“According to a preliminary report from BOC, from January to September 2020, they have already collected P13.6 billion, may excess na P3.6 billion. May natira pa na sobrang collection noong 2019. So together we want that money to be included in the General Appropriations Act and use that as cash assistance to rice farmers,” Villar said.
Villar said she is also asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to redirect the P1 billion budget in their crop diversification program to the cash assistance fund so that more money will be distributed to the farmers, for a total of P4.6 billion.
Villar authored the resolution to compel the immediate implementation of a provision in Republic Act 11203 or the rice tariffication law stating that anything in excess of P10 billion from the importation dues should be allocated for rice farmer financial assistance, titling of agricultural rice lands, expanded crop insurance program on rice, or for crop diversification program.
“Sa tingin ko mas maganda na ibigay na lang sa rice farmers kaysa ilagay pa sa programa. Marami namang programa ang DA. Mas kailangan ng farmers ang pera ngayon so they can spend for their immediate needs especially in this time of pandemic,” Villar said.
Villar also asked DA Sec. William Dar to instruct the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to stop issuing import permits for rice.
“Bakit ba tayo nag-iimport pa, iyan naman ang question ko sa BPI, iyong nagbibigay ng permit sa importation. Pigilan mo ang BPI, ayaw tumigil nang kabibigay ng import permit, bagsak na bagsak na ang presyo ng palay,” Villar said.
Joining Villar in the hearing were Senators Nancy Binay, Imee Marcos, Francis Pangilinan, and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who were all in unison to adopt the resolution and for submission of the measure for plenary consideration and approval.