The government is working on the cash transfers for farmers affected by the decline in palay prices, following the implementation of the Rice Tarrification Law.
However, Carlos Dominguez, Department of Finance (DOF) secretary, said in a press briefing at the DOF office Wednesday evening the government is still identifying the farmers who need assistance.
“We did discuss the issue of the cash transfer and they (Department of Agriculture) are working on the program, to work out on the cash transfer. One is the unconditional cash transfer to the most affected farmers. They’re still determining who are the most affected farmers, and determining how much they will provide, the assistance to them,” Dominguez said, after the economic development cluster’s meeting.
“Quite frankly, not everybody, not all farmers in the Philippines were affected in the same way. For instance, there’s a province in Central Visayas that the governor assured me that the prices haven’t dropped in that area. Also, the statistics that we see in Mindanao show that the prices seem to be holding up there, but again, this is subject to further investigation and the idea is to help those most affected farmers,” he added.
As of September 20, P10.7 billion in duties has been collected from rice imports by private traders under the Republic Act (RA) No. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Act, Dominguez said.
Tariff revenues from the rice imports are being utilized to boost local farmers’ productivity and global competitiveness through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which RA 11203 has set up with an annual allocation of at least P10 billion.
Last month, Dominguez said anything in excess of P10 billion can be used in the assistance program.
“We will have the budget for it because we are going to be collecting more, quite a bit more than the P10 billion that we did, from the tariffs,” he said.
Dominguez also said some traders might have taken advantage of the supply situation in the rice.
“Maybe that’s why the palay prices are down and maybe that’s why we have to see how we can assist those farmers. And definitely, we are open to that idea. And definitely, we will have the additional revenues from the tariffs to cover the additional amounts that we will have to be paying out,” Dominguez said.
Another issue discussed during the meeting is that part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program cash transfer will be given in rice, he said.
“That is a logistics problem. So there they are working out with Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Food Authority. They have to work out exactly how they’re going to do it,” he said.
When asked how soon the government can provide assistance to the most affected farmers, Dominguez said: “That’s up to them (DA) to determine who and determine how much. They have to figure out on the average how much the farmer produces, how much the price went down compared to the average.”
“Remember, last year was an unusual year. There was a shortage. So you cannot use that price to determine, you have to use the trimmed average. You take the lowest price and you take the highest price out of the picture, then you average what’s left,” he added.