MANILA -- Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel "Manny" Piñol assured farmers that the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will be released in the third quarter this year, following the recent passage of the Rice Tariffication Law.
"There is no truth to the report that government does not have the money for the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund programmed for release this year," said Piñol in a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
He explained that the RCEF is included in the Department of Agriculture's (DA) 2019 budget, and while it is initially categorized as an "unprogrammed" expenditure, it will be automatically funded following the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) last week.
"Besides, the P10-billion RCEF is in the Rice Tariffication Law and there is simply no way that it will not be provided by government," he noted.
The DA chief was reacting to earlier reports quoting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla that no funds are available as of this time for the RCEF.
Sombilla said P5 billion originally intended for the RCEF was allocated in 2018. However, when the Rice Tariffication bill failed to be enacted last year, the funds were channeled instead to the National Rice Program.
However, Piñol stressed the PHP5 billion channeled to the National Rice Program "could not be part of RCEF as it did not follow RCEF guidelines allocation."
"We will insist in getting the whole P10 billion (RCEF). That is the law. There is no way that it will have no funding, that's part of the law," he said.
"There is simply no way the government will forfeit its commitment," he added.
Meanwhile, Piñol said it is unfortunate that the statement of the NEDA official "was slanted in such a way that it was misinterpreted to mean that there is no money for RCEF."
"What she (Sombilla) said actually was that the funds may be released by the third quarter of this year. That would be a little over two months from now and just in time for the dry season planting which starts October," he said.
As the official solely responsible for supervising the utilization of the RCEF, the DA chief assured the Filipino rice farmers that the interventions covered by the RCEF will be delivered as soon as the funds are released despite misleading statements from some sectors. (PNA)