Senator Cynthia Villar, the sponsor and principal author of the Rice Tariffication Bill, promised farmers in this town to protect the implementation of the PHP10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund intended for the farmers.
“If I be given another term in Senate, I will again chair the Committee on Agriculture and Food Security, so I could keep close watch of the implementation of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund,” she said.
Villar disclosed that an investigation on excessive importation of agricultural products, resulting in low prices of farm products in the country, will be investigated by the Senate after the election period.
“We are just on leave for the campaign period, but after this, we will investigate the importations,” she said.
Villar was the guest of honor and speaker during the Farmer’s Day here on Tuesday, as part of the town’s founding anniversary celebration, where she explained to the farmers the components of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
“The Rice Tariffication Bill aims to tax imported rice to protect small farmers. Everything that will be collected will be given to the farmers in the Philippines,” said Villar, as she explained that the bill was needed in compliance with the World Trade Organization’s policy.
She added that alongside the passage of the bill into law, a secured PHP10-billion fund will be allocated to help the farmers become competitive, or the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
“The PHP5 billion will be given to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), which will give farmers machines for farming. First to the cooperatives, if there are no cooperatives, then to the farmers’ associations or to the local government units,” Villar said.
She added farmers will receive machines or equipment from PhilMech annually.
Villar further said the PHP3 billion will be allotted to Philippine Rice Research Institute that will teach farmers to become seed growers.
“You should plant inbred seeds that will increase your harvest from four metric tons per hectare to six metric tons per hectare, and will increase your harvest as well as your income to 50 percent and decrease cost to 25 percent,” she told farmers.
Villar also urged farmers not to borrow money from financial institutions offering high interest instead loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), or the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), where a PHP1-billion fund from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund was allocated.
“The interest rate from LBP and DBP is between two to four percent, but it is just for the processing fee,” she explained.
The senator, meanwhile, encouraged the farmers to avail of the trainings from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which will educate the farmers on farm mechanization and seed growing.
“A PHP1-billion funding was given to ATI and TESDA to pay for your tuition in farm schools,” Villar said.
There is a total of 1,855 farm schools all over the country, where farmers and high school graduates may study for free to update or learn about farming, she said in an interview with newsmen.
“It’s so nice that they have this farmers day, when farmers could study together and improve themselves, so that finally, they will not be afraid of imported (rice). There will come a time they can already compete with the other countries’ produce,” Villar said. (PNA)
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