THE House Committee on Agriculture and Food approved on Wednesday a still-unnumbered substitute joint resolution calling for rice procurement to be funded by the 2019 rice subsidy budget for poor families.

The budget funds will be used to directly procure rice from farmers, who have been realizing declining prices for their produce since the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law in March. The proposals call for cash subsidies distributed by the social welfare department to be converted to rice, to be directly distributed by the department to its beneficiaries.

The substitute resolution consolidates House Joint Resolutions 16 and 322 filed by Representatives Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr., Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez and Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, which both authorize the use of the rice subsidy meant for beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to procure rice from farmers.

The committee’s chairperson, Quezon 1st district Rep. Wilfrido M. Enverga said the measure will be discussed at the plenary level once legislative sessions resume on Nov. 4.

Once certified by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Enverga said that it could be approved on second and third reading on the same day.

“Assuming that there is a certification, once we return, we will ask the committee on rules and the Speaker kung pwedeng mai-prioritize natin ito (if it can be given priority), for sponsorship (on) second reading. Being certified, sa araw narin na ‘yun, pwede nang idiretsyo for third reading (it can be go for third reading on the same day),” Mr. Enverga in chance remarks to reporters.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Adelino B. Sitoy said that the executive department can immediately certify the measure once approved by the House.

“If this is approved by the House and forwarded to the Senate, we can work on the immediate certification,” Mr. Sitoy told the committee.

The 2019 General Appropriations Act provides a total allocation of P33.9 billion for rice subsidies, with the largest portion going to beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). Currently, a balance of P6.97 billion remains undisbursed under the department’s rice subsidy program.

Beneficiaries of 4Ps receive a monthly rice subsidy of P600, equivalent to 20 kg of rice.

DSWD National Program Manager for 4Ps Gemma B. Gabuya said that the agency is drafting a memorandum circular along with the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority in preparation for possible direct rice distribution

“Currently, we are drafting a joint memo circular in terms of the mechanics in the distribution of the rice to the 4Ps beneficiaries. We are just awaiting the approval of this resolution, so that we can transfer the funds as initially discussed to NFA to be able to buy palay,” Ms. Gabuya said. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras