House presses rice purchase fund

A SUBSTITUTE measure authorizing the use of the rice subsidy fund to purchase umilled rice (palay) from local farmers has been approved.

The substitute measure stemmed from a resolution filed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and his wife Tingog Sinirangan party-list Rep. Yedda Marie and another by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga expressed hope that the unnumbered bill will be certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte for its early passage and in order to help farmers who are suffering from the low cost of palay.

The committee members agreed to allow the rice subsidy fund, amounting to P6.7 billion, under the annual national budget to be utilized for other purposes.

Enverga said around P2.7 billion from the rice subsidy fund will be used to purchase palay from local farmers.

In the present General Appropriations Act, there is an allocation of P33.9-billion for rice subsidies, most of which will be given to beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Under 4Ps, beneficiaries will be given a rice subsidy in the form of financial assistance amounting to P600 a month.

However, it was reported by the DSWD that at least P6.97 billion from the rice subsidy program has yet to be disbursed.

The remaining P2.89 billion from the rice subsidy fund, meanwhile, is given to military uniformed personnel to provide them with 20 kilos of rice per month in the form of financial assistance.

The substitute bill is proposing that the DSWD, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and local government units, in coordination with the National Food Authority and the Department of Agriculture, directly purchase palay from local farmers and distribute rice subsidy in the form of actual rice, instead of cash.

“Umaasa kami na sana naman, makita ng executive department yung kahalagahan nito lalo na yung timing nito,” Enverga said in an interview.

“We’re hopeful na sana magkaroon ng certification from the President para pag-resume namin, within that day, ay kaya na rin namin matapos at maipasa na ito, makapag-bicam na kami ng Senate,” he added.

Present at yesterday’s hearing, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Adelino Sitoy said that it is possible for the measure to be certified as urgent by the President.