Senate panel OKs measure requiring purchase of local palay

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    THE Senate measure directing the government to give rice to conditional cash transfer beneficiaries in lieu of cash subsidies passed the committee level yesterday.

    The agriculture and agrarian reform committees approved Senate Joint Resolution No. 8, which mandates agencies to “directly purchase palay from the local farmers for the Rice Subsidy Program.”

    Currently, beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) receive rice subsidies in the form of P600 cash monthly. The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that a balance of P6.97 billion for rice subsidies remained undisbursed.

    Similarly, the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be required to spend on local rice the remaining P2.89-billion cash subsidies for uniformed personnel.

    The resolution also directs local government units to tap local rice sources for the needs of hospitals, jails and other local institutions, as well as feeding programs and calamity response.

    The measure was meant to address the adverse effects of the Rice Tariffication law on the livelihood of local rice producers. The law was signed by President Duterte in February 2019.

    The law lifted the quotas on the importation of rice, and the deluge of supply depressed the buying price of the locally grown grain to “levels way below the cost production.”

    The resolution noted that prices of locally produced palay (unhusked rice) plunged to P16.28 per kilogram, from the P23.10 average last year.

    It also cited the National Food Authority’s report of an oversupply in rice that filled up its warehouses. The agency said it had bought 209,525.15 metric tons of local palay and stocked an equivalent amount of imported rice.