The government raised PHP14 billion from tariffs on rice imports during the first year of the implementation of the rice tariffication law (RTL).
During the RTL's anniversary celebration here, Department of Finance (DOF) Executive Assistant Renzo Enrico Blanco said the government collected PHP12.31 billion in 2019, and PHP1.71 billion as of Feb. 14 this year.
The collection last year exceeded the PHP10 billion allocations for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) by PHP2.31 billion, Blanco, who represented DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, said.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said of the total PHP2.31 billion excess in the collection last year, PHP1.31 billion will be used as an aid to farmers while the remaining PHP1 billion for crop insurance of all rice farmers who are members of the Farmers' Cooperatives and Associations (FCAs).
All members of FCAs are automatically insured, he said.
Dar also refuted the claim of the farmer group Federation of Free Farmers on the alleged PHP68 billion losses of farmers due to RTL.
Dar cited Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), saying farmers all over the country lose PHP8.2 billion in the first year of enforcement of the RTL, but not PHP68 billion.
There are PHP8.2 billion losses of our farmers but consumers were able to save PHP4.9 billion due to the low price of rice in the market. So the actual net loss of our farmers who are also consumers is actually only PHP3.3 billion, he said.
He added the farmers' net loss was compensated through the different financial aid programs under the RCEF, including the Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE Aid) program and the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program.
Based on the data of the Land Bank of the Philippines, some 163,527 farmers all over the country availed of the SURE Aid program amounting to PHP2.48 billion.
Through the program, each farmer was granted PHP15,000 worth of loan assistance payable in eight years with a six month grace period with no interest and collateral.
While 23,377 small rice farmers who are tilling 0.5 hectares to two hectares of land received PHP5,000 each under the RFFA program, or a total of PHP116.89 million.
We are giving the farmers assistance in every form so basically there are no losses, Dar said.
He also cited the benefits of the RTL, such as availability of several rice grades to choose from, free trade or the promotion of fair competition in the market, and that rice is no longer a driver of inflation.
He also assured the supply of rice in the country is sufficient within five months even amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 on the importation of goods to the country even calling it extreme.
We will again open importation after the main harvest so we will have more supply come the rainy season, he said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Center for Postharvest and Mechanization (PhilMech) said the initial distribution of farm equipment, which is also a component of RCEF, is set in April this year.
Senator Cynthia Villar said the 2019 budget for the farm mechanization was already released on Monday by the Department of Budget and Management.
The loans, procurement of high yielding seeds, were first funded. And since there was a change of DA Secretary last year, there was a problem with the documents but it is now fixed. The mechanization is underway, she said.
Villar added she plans to file an extension of the RCEF if it gained positive results after six years of its implementation.
Meanwhile, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Secretary Isidro LapeAa said some 25,000 farmers nationwide are undergoing training as part of the preparation for the farm mechanization.
It is important that they know how to use their equipment and how to fix it in case it encountered problems for more efficient work in their fields and to lower the cost of labor, he said.
Source: Philippines News Agency