REPRESENTATIVE Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr., the Deputy Speaker from Camarines Sur’s 2nd district, filed a resolution to tap P29 billion worth of rice subsidy funds to procure palay, or unmilled rice, and make the social welfare department distribute rice directly instead of cash.

Mr. Villafuerte’s House Joint Resolution No. 16 asked Congress to authorize the use of the rice subsidy meant for beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to procure palay, or unmilled rice.

“In order to help local farmers, the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is in a position to distribute the rice subsidy under the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) in the form of actual kilos of rice, instead of a cash grant. The DSWD is also in a position to help in the buying of palay from farmers, which it can coordinate with the Department of Agriculture (DA). It shall then proceed to distribute rice to the 4Ps beneficiaries who shall receive their rice subsidy from DSWD-designated outlets,” Mr. Villafuerte said.

The price of palay, the form in which farmers sell their harvest, has been declining sharply because rice traders now prefer to acquire their stock from imports, which are cheaper. The government has since been organizing various direct-purchasing initiatives for palay to prop up the price and to ensure farmers get a “fair” return for their harvest.

Currently, on top of the CCT grant of P300 per month, 4Ps beneficiaries who are among the Philippines’ poorest also get P600 a month in cash to buy 20 kilos of rice.

The NFA reported that it has over 200,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice in its warehouses as of Aug. 22, 2019, and was able to procure 360,657 bags of palay at 50 kilos per bag or equivalent to 209,525 MT.

“The problem of oversupply is expected to exacerbate during the period from September to October which is the peak palay harvest season,” Mr. Villafuerte said. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras