Groups hit exclusion of farmers in new rice body
Industry groups have decried the exclusion of farmers in the government’s committee that will ensure the proper use of the annual subsidy under the new rice law.
The approved implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Rice Import Liberalization Law removed the participation of farmers in the Program Steering Committee (PSC) of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will bring P10 billion worth of subsidy for the development of the rice industry.
The Federation of Free Farmers (FEF), the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Samahang Agrikultura ng Industriya (Sinag) expressed their “disappointment” over the provision, adding that the representation of farmers was vital especially since the measure concerned their livelihood.
Under the IRR, members of the PSC only included heads of government agencies related to the industry such as the Department of Agriculture, the National Food Authority, the National Irrigation Administration and the National Economic and Development Authority.
“I simply cannot understand why the government does not want farmers in the PSC when we could contribute so much to the proper implementation of the RCEF. Farmers are not only beneficiaries of the fund, but should also be recognized as valuable partners of government in achieving food security and agricultural development,” FEF president Raul Montemayor said.
“It now seems clear that the public consultations on the IRR were a mere charade and farmers were just taken for a ride. Government officials made a lot of promises and assurances, but in the end, nothing clear and definite came out in the implementing rules,” he added.
Sinag chair Rosendo So said removing farmers’ participation in the PSC did not make sense if the government’s goal was to help the former improve their production. The PSC could have been an avenue for rice farmers to relay their concerns to the government.
The RCEF is provided by the law to assist local farmers in developing the industry through mechanization. Economic managers said the fund’s release could be expected by the third quarter of the year.
The goal of the annual subsidy is to lower the cost of producing rice in the Philippines at a rate that could compete with other rice-producing countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. Currently, the country’s production cost for rice is at P12 a kilo while other Asean countries are at P6 a kilo.
Of the P10-billion subsidy, P5 billion will be directed to PhilMech for the distribution of machinery and equipment to farmers, while P3 billion will be given for seed distribution, P1 billion for credit and P1 billion for training and seminars.
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