By: Gerome Dalipe
THE Iloilo Provincial Board is reviewing the proposal of Gov. Arthur Defensor, Jr., who seeks the approval of the P100-million loan assistance program to aid small farmers to cope with the effects of the Rice Tarrification Law.
Provincial Board Member Domingo Oso, Jr., the appropriations committee chairman, said the legislators deliberated on first reading the governor’s proposed supplemental budget.
“We will be discussing this in principle. I am okay as to the assistance to the farmers,” said Oso.
The proposed allocation is included in the P1.3-billion supplemental Annual Investment Program (AIP) of the Province, which will be the basis for a supplemental budget.
Rosalie Grace Sonza, the Capitol’s local revenue collections officer, certified the availability of proposed additional budget from the general fund to be taken from the “unappropriated surplus” in 2018.
Once approved, the Provincial Cooperative and Development Office will implement the program.
Under the proposal, the Provincial Capitol will offer zero-interest loans to accredited farmer cooperatives.
In turn, the coops will buy palay from small farmers at premium prices. Those small farmers refer to those tilling below one hectare of lands.
Of the 114, 000 farmers, only 7,953 are considered small farmers in the province.
“These cooperatives have drying facilities. The amount of loan will depend on their absorptive capacity,” Defensor told reporters.
The proposed loan program was an offshoot of the Provincial Government’s call for the National Food Authority to set up mobile buying stations in municipalities to reduce the transport cost of farmers.
The Provincial Board later passed a resolution requesting the NFA to expand their buying stations in towns to cater to accredited cooperatives and local farmers.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed in February 2019 Republic Act 11203 or Rice Trade Liberalization Law.
Under the new law, the Philippines will lift the quantitative restriction and allow the entry of imported rice with tariffs, which is 35 percent per ton of rice from Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries and 50 percent from non-ASEAN countries.