A HOUSE leader has called on Congress to authorize the use of some P29 billion intended as rice subsidies to conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the procurement of palay from farmers this harvest season.
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said his proposal supports President Duterte’s directive for the government to engage in massive buying of this staple from local growers.
Instead of giving the subsidies as cash grants to target low-income households of the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Villafuerte said the government can purchase unmilled rice from local farmers, and convert them to rice for distribution to the 4Ps beneficiary-families.
Under House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 16, Villafuerte urged the Senate and the House of Representatives “voting separately, to authorize the use of the Rice Subsidy as provided under the 4Ps in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the purchase of palay from farmers, mandating for the purpose the DSWD to buy palay from the local farmers and distribute rice subsidy in the form of actual rice, instead of cash assistance, to the qualified beneficiaries.”
He said this plan is crucial in raising farmgate prices of palay this main harvest season, especially after the National Food Authority (BFA) reported that its warehouses are already full.
The NFA reported that it has over 200,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice in its custody, as of August 22, 2019, and was able to procure locally 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,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte said that on top of the CCT grant of P300 per month received by the DSWD’s 4Ps beneficiaries, they also get P600 a month in cash to be able to buy 20 kilos of rice. Under the 2019 budget, the allocation for rice subsidies amounts to P28.51 billion and is the same amount proposed for the following fiscal year.
The rice subsidy in the form of cash is given to beneficiaries through their existing Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) account or cash cards, while those without cash cards or automatic teller machine (ATM) cards can get their money through scheduled or coordinated pay-out through the DSWD, Villafuerte said.
“In order to help the local farmers, the DSWD is in a position to distribute the rice subsidy under the 4Ps program in the form of actual kilos of rice, instead of cash grant. The DSWD is also in the position to help in the buying of palay from farmers, which it can coordinate with the Department of Agriculture (DA). It shall then proceed in distributing rice to the 4Ps beneficiaries who shall receive their rice subsidy from DSWD-designated outlets,” said Villafuerte in his resolution.
He said local farmers are also in need of additional buying stations where they could sell their projected harvest of palay during this period, which could be resolved if the government adopts his proposal.
“The distribution of rice subsidy shall be in accordance with the procedure, guidelines, and distribution system to be determined by the DSWD,” he said.