Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros today urged the Department of Agriculture to speed up the release of billions worth of cash assistance to poor farmers throughout the country badly affected by sinking prices of rice in the market.
“The Department of Agriculture should expedite the release of funds for direct financial assistance for farmers parked under the Rice Tarrification Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). Kailangan natin bigyang ayuda ang ating mga magsasaka na nalulubog sa pagkalugi,” Hontiveros said.
At the budget hearing of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Hontiveros quizzed DA officials about the status of the release of cash grants under the RCEF – which has an annual allocation of up to P10 billion – to farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.
While the DA has rolled out a ‘Sure Aid Loan’ program where farmers can avail of a P15,000 from government, Hontiveros said that this will not be able to fully help farmers absorb and overcome their daily loss of income. She added that the loan program is different from the direct financial assistance and unconditional cash transfer which farmers are entitled to under present laws.
“Ang lumalabas, hindi pa po natin natutulungan lahat ng maliliit na magsasaka sa unang bugso ng pagkalugi dulot ng epekto ng pagbagsak ng presyo ng palay,” she said.
Hontiveros warned that without government assistance, families of farmers will continue to be badly affected by the sharp decline in prices of rice, with income loss among farmers highest in the regions of MIMAROPA, ARMM, and CARAGA, with losses amounting to Php 38,000, Php 27,000 and Php 15,000 per household respectively. The places where net income loss was lowest were the three Visayas regions, Central Mindanao, and the Ilocos Region at a little above Php 5,000 to less than Php 5,000.
Hontiveros said that given the number of rice farming families badly hit by the drop in rice prices, the total amount of income support would be around Php 5 billion per year, with some regions needing greater assistance than others.