Marcos approves P5,000 financial assistance for 2.3 million rice farmers

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Marcos approves P5,000 financial assistance for 2.3 million rice farmers
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. distributes multiple sacks of rice earlier confiscated by the Bureau of Customs to 4Ps beneficiaries in Surigao del Norte.
Released / Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved and ordered on Thursday the release of P12.7 billion for the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) program in an attempt to help small rice farmers to sustain productivity.

The amount will benefit over 2.3 million small rice farmer beneficiaries under the RFFA who earlier registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) as of June 30, 2023.

Each farmer will get P5,000 in financial aid, with the funds sourced from excess tariff collection from rice importations in 2022.

"[This would] help them cope with the increasing cost of production and sustain their productivity even in the face of challenges like the coming El Niño [phenomenon]," said Marcos in a  statement released on Saturday.

"Bilang inyong pangulo at kalihim ng Agrikultura, patuloy po tayong gumagawa ng mga konkretong solusyon upang matugunan ang mga problemang kinakaharap ng sektor ng agrikultura (As your president and secretary of Agriculture, we are continuing on making concrete steps to solve problems being faced by our agricultural sector)."

Included in the RFFA beneficiaries are:

  • farm cooperatives associations (FCAs)
  • irrigators associations (IAs)
  • agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs)
  • small water impounding systems associations (SWISAs)
  • other farm groups

The aid is an "unconditional" financial assistance to land tillers who tend to below two hectares of land as mandated under the Cash Assistance to Filipino Farmers Act of 2021 or Republic Act 11598.

Marcos earlier extended P15,000 in financial assistance to small rice retailers and sari-sari store owners affected by the imposition of the P41 price cap on regular milled rice and P45 price ceiling on well-milled rice.

The Department of Agriculture plans on maintaining the price ceilings until the retail price of rice goes down to P38 per kilo. Price caps were introduced after a recent sudden spike in rice prices while the inflation rate soared to 5.3% in August.

"Kaya naman, ang hamon ko sa inyo, mga kapwa Pilipino: Magtulungan po tayo upang maisaayos ang ating agrikultura at maisakatuparan ang pangarap natin ng ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ – kung saan matatag, maginhawa at panatag ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino. (That's why, my challenge to you, my fellow Filipinos is this: Let's help each other fix our agriculture to achieve our dream of a "New Philippines" — wherein the lives of each and every Filipino is stable, comfortable and secure)," Marcos Jr. said.

The government currently collects tariffs from imported rice products abroad, which now has no limitations or regulations in quantity. 

Progressive farmers groups have long criticized the Rice Tariffication Law (RA 8178) which has deregulated the entry of imported rice products into the Philippines.

According to Anakpawis party-list, this resulted in the lowering of palay farm gate prices and over P200 billion in losses for Filipino farmers in 2021.

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