Unconditional cash aid to farmers

FINANCE Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Agriculture Secretary William Dar have mutually agreed over the weekend to implement the assistance program to help rice farmers adjust to low prices of palay (paddy rice) following the passage of Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

Under the program, unconditional cash assistance would be allocated and distributed to affected farmers by expanding the ongoing Survival and Recovery (SURE) program of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an attached agency of the DA.

The expansion of SURE to assist rice farmers will also build on the good experience under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The expanded SURE program is in addition to the programs and projects mandated under the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), the annual PHP10-billion fund established under RA 11203 to be sourced from the Bureau of Custom’s (BOC) collection of tariffs on rice imports by private traders following the enactment of this law.

“This unconditional cash assistance program is meant to help cushion the initial impact of lower palay prices on our farmers as they transition to the new rice tariffication regime,” Dominguez said.

“For the long haul, the RCEF facility under RA 11203 will help sharpen the global competitiveness of our farmers by way of an array of programs providing them with access to farm machinery and equipment, high-yield seeds, cheap credit and skills training programs on farm mechanization and modern farming techniques,” he added.

Dominguez expects that tariff revenues from rice imports in 2019 will likely exceed PHP10 billion, a development that will assure full funding of the RCEF.

The annual tariff revenues in excess of PHP10 billion will enable further adjustment assistance for rice farmers for the remainder of the Duterte administration, he said.

Dar, who chairs the ACPC Council, will convene the Council at the soonest time possible to get the SURE assistance started right away.

Dominguez is a member of the ACPC Council.