Slow RCEF distribution seen hindering farmers

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SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar — PHILSTAR

SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar on Tuesday warned against the slow disbursement of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a component of the Rice Tariffication Law that seeks to upgrade farmers’ competitiveness.

“If we do not give RCEF a chance to be fully implemented and deliver on its promise to improve the competitiveness of our agriculture sector, I don’t think we can ever make it,’’ Ms. Villar said in a statement.

“In this age of liberalization, our farmers will continue to fear competition because they were not given the chance to improve their ways.”

The committee on agriculture and food with the committees on finance, trade, commerce and entrepreneurship on Wednesday will continue its inquiry on the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, or Republic Act No. 11203.

The law calls for RCEF to receive P10 billion a year for the next six years from tariffs collected on liberalized rice imports. The funds will be used to expand farm mechanization and increase farmers’ access to financing, inputs and technical know-how

Ms. Villar said of the first P5 billion released for RCEF, only P1 billion has been credited to farmers.

“Now that Philippine authorities can no longer limit the entry of imported rice, we impose tariffs and collect the amount to spend for programs that will help improve our farmers’ productivity and profitability under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF),” Ms. Villar said.

Ms. Villar also pointed out the Rice Tariffication Law helps meet the Philippines’ 1995 commitment to the World Trade Organization, to do away with quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

“We were under a QR system for 22 years. To my mind, we were given more than enough time to improve but we did not improve. Our farmers and fisherfolk continue to suffer in poverty while smugglers and cartels continue to enrich themselves,” Ms. Villar said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan