A LAWMAKER on Monday proposed to use the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to support the Agriculture departments plan to use hybrid rice seeds across 1.5 million hectares of land.  

Camarines Sur. Rep. Luis Raymund L-RayF. Villafuerte Jr. wants to call the program Masagana 129, a rehash of the Masagana 99 rice sector project during the martial law period.    

He saidthe DA (Department of Agriculture) should consider as among the funding sources for the Masagana 129 program the P10-billion RCEF, which was set up by the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) to financially help our palay growers sharpen their global competitiveness following the deregulation of rice imports.”  

He said in a statement that the target of the proposed Masagana revival is to produce at least 129 cavans per hectare instead of the original 99 cavans to meet President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.s goal of attaining rice self-sufficiency in two years time.” 

Agriculture sector group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said the program might not help local farmers as the RCEF itself had not been beneficial to them.  

We prefer that the funds from rice tariffs would directly support farmers either [through] vouchers or cash incentives,Mr. Cainglet said in a phone call.  

He also proposed that farmers should be given the power to choose their preferred machineries and seeds using the RCEF.  

The problem with seeds [availed] through RCEF is theyre hybrid and from China. Theyre not helping local farmers but Chinese corporations and [the seeds] are not adaptable to the condition of the countrys farmlands,he said.  

He added that for the past three years, the cost of producing rice has increased by 30%. Beatriz Marie D. Cruz