Lawmakers want extra P15B for NFA to buy palay from local farmers

MANILA, Philippines – Fifty-three lawmakers led by the progessive Makabayan bloc are seeking to provide a P15-billion supplemental budget to the National Food Authority (NFA) amid the plummeting prices of palay.  

The 53 legislators filed House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 18 on Thursday, September 19, seeking to mandate the immediate release of an additional P15 billion to the NFA. The amount will be for the “exclusive and urgent” procurement of at least 750,000 metric tons of palay from local farmers at the farmgate price of P20 per kilogram. 

The lawmakers also want the NFA rice to be sold at P27 per kilogram to help ease the “dire impacts” of the rice tariffication law, which replaced the old import quotas with tariffs.

The House members are blaming the rice tariffication law for the sharp decline in the farmgate prices of palay, which have reportedly dropped to as low as P7 per kilo in some areas. 

The price decline is now hurting the livelihood of an estimated 2.4 million Filipino rice farmers, whom the government offered with zero-interest loans instead of conditional cash transfers. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Plummeting rice prices: How will our rice farmers cope?)

In their joint resolution, the legislators argued the P1.5-billion Expanded Survival and Recovery Asisstance Program for Rice Farmers of the Department of Agriculture (DA) would only provide zero-interest loans worth P15,000 each to 100,000 rice farmers. 

On top of this, the NFA would only be able to purchase 350,000 metric tons or about 7 million sacks of palay from local farmers at P20 per kilo farmgate price from the agency’s P7-billion budget for buffer stocking in 2019.

“The country is once again entering the harvest season of the lean second cropping. The NFA must be refueled with adequate funds so that it can procure a substantial portion from the coming harvest,” said the 53 legislators. 

HJR 18 would have the full force and effect of the law if it hurdles Congress and is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. It would become a supplemental budget for the NFA on top of the current national budget for 2019.

Among HJR 18’s authors are several Liberal Party lawmakers who filed a separate joint resolution that would amend the rice tariffication law and allow the government to use P13.19 billion as direct cash assistance to rice farmers.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano also said the House is likely to realign at least P2 billion under the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020 so the DA could buy more stocks from rice farmers. 

The 53 authors of HJR 18 are: 

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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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