House panel OKs resolution allowing gov’t to buy palay from farmers

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on agriculture and food has approved a joint resolution that would allow the government to directly purchase palay stock from rice farmers.

On Wednesday, October 23, lawmakers in the committee approved a still-unnumbered joint resolution that would authorize the government to tap into the remaining P6.97-billion rice subsidy fund under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2019 to buy palay from farmers.  

If passed by Congress, the joint resolution would transfer to the National Food Authority the unused P6.97 billion rice subsidy fund under the current budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The government will use these funds to buy palay from local farmers at P19 per kilo.

The Senate already approved on 2nd reading its version of the measure on October 2. 

The joint resolution, once passed by both houses of Congress, would have the full force and effect of the law if President Rodrigo Duterte signs it. 

House panel chairperson Wilfrido Mark Enverga is hoping that Duterte would certify the joint resolution as urgent so that lawmakers can pass the joint resolution on 2nd and 3rd reading on the same day. 

“Umaasa kami na sana naman makita ng executive department ‘yong kahalagahan nito, lalo’t higit ‘yong timing nito. So we’re hopeful na sana magkaroon ng certification from [the] President,” Enverga, who is also Quezon 1st District congressman, told reporters after the hearing.

(We're hoping that the executive department would see how important this is, especially considering the timing. So we're hopeful that there would be a certification from the President.)

The House has already realigned P3.5 billion under the proposed P4.1-trillion budget in 2020 to augment the Department of Agriculture’s allocations to allow the agency to buy more palay stock from farmers amid the plummeting farmgate prices in parts of the country.

Farmgate prices of palay have reportedly dropped to as low as P7 per kilo in some areas, with critics pinning the blame on the passage of the rice tariffication law that replaced the old import quotas with tariffs. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Plummeting rice prices: How will our rice farmers cope?)

Think tank Action for Economic Reforms had earlier  urged Duterte to call for a special session of Congress to put in place relief measures for rice farmers badly hit by the implementation of the rice tariffication law.

The 18th Congress is currently on break and would resume session on November 4. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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