MANILA Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday urged new acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar to prioritize the return of the PHP4 billion to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to increase the production of the local farmers under the rice tariffication law.
Villar said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released PHP5 billion December last year even prior to the enactment of the rice tariffication bill.
Of the amount, only PHP1 billion went to RCEF's program which offers loans to farmers through Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
"Kahit sabihin pa nila na kaya ginastos iyon dahil hindi pa napapasa ang RCEF, dapat naghintay sila at hindi ginastos sa ibang bagay (Even if they say that it was already spent for other purposes because the law on RCEF was not yet signed, they still should have waited and not have used it for other things), she said.
I want DA to account for the remaining PHP4 billion and also to make sure that PHP4 billion will be immediately returned to RCEF," she added.
Villar said the money is needed to jumpstart the programs enumerated in the law which is to make the domestic rice industry more competitive through farm mechanization, access to better seeds, and more financing and extension services, among others.
Earlier, Villar filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the implementation of the PHP10-billion RCEF.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, has made it a point to prioritize the exercise of her committee's oversight function on the law's implementation and to ensure that funds are allocated for the purpose actually intended.
"This is the protection measure we have in place for our local farmers in a tariffied regime we find ourselves in following the expiration of the agreement with the World Trade Organization. We believe in this law and for the sake of our farmers, we want it to succeed," Villar said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency