DA continues distributing cash assistance to rice farmers

Catherine Talavera – The Filipino Star

February 21, 2022 | 00:00

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is continuing to distribute cash assistance to eligible rice farmers as more than 200 farmers are expected to receive their P5,000 assistance this month.

In a statement, the DA said a total of 203 rice farmers from Barangays Butige and Cabuan in Paracelis, Mountain Province, are expected to apply for their financial assistance this month under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Scheme ( RFFA).

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) of the DA, in partnership with the Municipal Local Government Unit (LGU), has already distributed the application stubs to eligible rice farmers.

“Distribution is also ongoing to other rice growing areas in the region covered by RFFA since its regional launch in October last year,” the DA said.

The RFFA is a direct cash transfer to qualified rice farmers, mainly in compensation for the expected loss of income due to the decline in the price of palay (unhusked rice).

Under the RFFA, rice farmers who cultivate two hectares or less will receive 5,000 pula in unconditional financial assistance.

The program draws its funds from rice tariffs collected each year beyond the 10 billion pesos allocated to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said earlier that more rice farmers would receive cash assistance this year as the country collected more than 8 billion pesos in excess tariffs on rice imports last year .

“Last year, the collection reached 8.8 billion pesos, which means we will reach out and help more farmers,” Dar said.

Dar was recently in Bohol province where he provided cash assistance worth 267.7 million pesos under RFFA to 52,819 beneficiary farmers in the province.

Dar said the cash aid distributed came from excess fares collected in 2020.

In November, the DA began distributing cash assistance from excess customs duties collected from 2019 and 2020, the first two years of the implementation of the Rice Pricing Act (RTL), for a combined amount of 7.6 billion pesos.

Assistant Agriculture Secretary Arnel de Mesa said the DA aims to begin RFFA distribution by March or April.

De Mesa said the recent signing of Republic Act 11598 or the Philippine Farmers Cash Assistance Act by President Duterte, which mandates the DA to provide cash transfers to rice farmers cultivating two hectares or less until 2024, would streamline the implementation of the RFFA as the Bureau of Customs would be authorized to automatically remit excess tariffs to the DA.

Before the law was signed, excess tariff revenue had to be appropriated by Congress and included in the following year’s general appropriations act for other purposes.

This was done in the case of excess tariffs collected in 2019 and 2020, which were only distributed in 2021.

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