THE Senate committee on agriculture and food will look into the slow disbursement of the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is authorized by Republic Act No. 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Act.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has so far released P5 billion for the RCEF, of which, committee chair Senator Cynthia A. Villar said, only P1 billion has been credited to farmers accounts.

Kaya mag-iinvestigate ako para malaman ko saan dinala ang P5 billion (I am investigating what happened to the P5 billion),” Ms. Villar told reporters at a briefing Tuesday. Ms. Villar filed Senate Resolution No. 39 to signal her intent to look into the disbursement of RCEF funds.

Under the Law, RCEF is to be funded at P10 billion every year for the next six years. Some P5 billion will fund the procurement of farm equipment through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech).

About P3 billion will go to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), P1 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), while P1 billion will fund skills training.

“We want to make sure that LBP and DBP have come up with the guidelines and policies that make access to the funds by farmer beneficiaries easy and not prohibitive,” she said.

She also noted that PhilMech and PhilRice are not yet ready with their respective guidelines, which should have been issued 15 days after the publication of the implementing rules and regulations.

Ms. Villar said if she finds the RCEF program to be successful over six years, she will move to expand it.

“I’ll do my oversight but after three years, we review… after six years kung successful kami (if we are successful) then I can move to extend the Rice Comprehensive Enhancement Fund.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan