ZERO TOLERANCE | Palace: P10B Rice Fund won’t be corrupted

3 weeks ago

(FEBRUARY 19, 2019) – Malacañang on Tuesday assured the public that safeguards are in place to shield the P10-billion Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) or Rice Fund from corruption.

“The President has zero tolerance against corruption and wastage of taxpayers’ money,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“We continue to exercise accountability and transparency in all levels of the bureaucracy.”

He made the remark amid fears that the RCEF would fall into corrupt hands as what happened to the fertilizer fund scam.

The Agriculture department, Panelo said, will coordinate with farmer organizations, rice cooperatives, and local government units in validating the masterlist of Rice Fund beneficiaries.

The Palace official also highlighted a provision in the newly-signed Rice Tariffication Law, which mandates the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization to conduct a periodic review of the RCEF.

“We ask rice farmer representatives and vital stakeholders to be pro-active in the discussion and review of the crafting of the Rice Industry Roadmap and Internal Rules and Regulations [to] ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the new measure,” Panelo wrote.

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said that the Rice Fund, if properly used, could increase the productivity of local rice farmers and reduce post-harvest losses.

“Initially, there would be a drop in the buying price of palay but the farmers are expected to adjust by increasing productivity with funds coming from tariffication,” he wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend.

Under the rice tariffication law, tariffs and duties collected from the rice importation (35 percent for ASEAN members and 50 percent for other sources) which is estimated at no less than P10-billion every year, shall be turned over to RCEF.

For 2019, P5-billion from the RCEF will be allocated to farm mechanization; P3-billion for high-yielding seeds; P1-billion for credit; and P1-billion for technical skills training.

‘NO HARM ON LOCAL RICE INDUSTRY’

In the same Facebook post, the Agriculture chief debunked “disinformation” about the new measure, which has been opposed by several farmer groups lest the liberalization of rice imports would “kill” the local rice industry.

“Even if the importers would want to bring in huge volumes of imported rice, there is not much rice supply available in the world market,” Piñol said.

He cited rice exporting countries like Thailand and Vietnam, which, in a few years, “will not be able to export the same volume of rice as they do now because they also have a growing population.”

Piñol had also ruled out the idea of the Philippines being dependent on imported rice “even on a short term.”

“The proposal by some economists that the Philippines would do better just importing rice rather than invest in its local rice production program is a short-sighted perspective,” he wrote.

“It will end up at the mercy of the rice exporters who could sell their produce at an even higher price than our domestic cost of production.”

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the rice tariffication law on February 14.

Concerned government agencies are given 45 days from the day it takes effect to craft its implementing rules and regulations.