By Chino S. Leyco
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that bulk of the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) will be used to modernize palay farms and support the government’s goal of increasing the sector’s productivity.
Republic Act No. 11203 mandates the establishment of RCEF, which guarantees the rice sector P10-billion financial support annually for the next six years beginning this year.
According to the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) recently signed by NEDA, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Department of Agriculture, half of the rice fund, amounting to P5 billion annually, will be used to procure rice farm equipment by the government through the Philippine Center for postharvest development and mechanization (PhilMech).
Equipment such as tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, and irrigation pumps will be given as a grant-in-kind primarily to eligible farmers, rice farmer associations, and registered rice cooperatives.
As a result, the existing outlay of the DA on farm mechanization for rice is expected to have an additional P5 billion allocation from only P1.92 billion in 2018.
“Modernizing the rice industry has a multiplier effect on the economy. It will not only make our rice farms more efficient and productive. It will also push the demand for farm equipment up, thereby boosting the manufacturing industry and creating more jobs for Filipinos,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
PhilMech is required to procure from accredited manufacturers whenever feasible to support the local manufacturers of farm machines and equipment.
In coordination with the DA’s regional offices, LGUs, members of the private sector and farmers’ groups, PhilMech is also tasked to formulate implementing guidelines on rice farm equipment component consistent with the Rice Industry Roadmap.
This will include the eligibility criteria for prospective recipients, modality of selection, and mode of implementation and the accountability system in the procurement and distribution of rice farm equipment.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) will receive 30 percent of the RCEF to develop, propagate and promote inbred rice seeds to rice farmers and organizations of rice farmers.
The Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines will be given 10 percent of the fund for the creation of a credit facility with minimal interest rates and collateral requirements.
Likewise, the remaining 10 percent of the RCEF will be used for skills training in rice crop production, modern rice farming techniques, seed production, farm mechanization, and knowledge and technology transfer through farm schools nationwide.
This portion will be divided among training providers, such as PhilMech (10 percent), PhilRice (10 percent), Agriculture Training Institute (10 percent), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (70 percent).
Furthermore, tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion will be used for providing direct financial assistance to small farmers, titling of rice lands, expanding crop insurance, and carrying out of crop diversification programs.
A Program Steering Committee, to be chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture, and co-chaired by the NEDA Secretary, will oversee and provide policy directions on the integrated implementation of the programs under the RCEF.