SEVERAL Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries have welcomed the government’s plan to convert to 20 kilos of rice the P600 monthly rice subsidy they receive under the program.
Lorna Paler, 46, 4Ps beneficiary for at least six years, said she has no option but to agree with what the government intends to do since being a member of the 4Ps is a “privilege.”
“Yes, we heard that it will no longer be cash. We can’t do anything because that is their plan,” she said in Cebuano.
Housewife Maria Capua, another member of the program, said such move is helpful in making sure that the grant is spent according to its allocation.
“That would be better since it would ensure that the money would really be used for rice because there are some members who don’t use the money for rice even if it is supposed to be for rice,” she said in Cebuano.
The Senate, last Oct. 2, approved on second reading the Joint Resolution No. 8 that directs local government units and government agencies to directly purchase rice from local farmers for their rice subsidy program.
This is to help local rice farmers buffeted by the plunge in palay prices to their lowest levels in seven years following the liberalization of rice importation due to the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law last February. Republic Act 11203 lifted the restrictions on rice imports, causing a flood of imported rice that has depressed the buying price of local palay (unhusked rice).
This would then allow the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with the National Food Authority (NFA) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), to replace with rice the P600 monthly rice subsidy of 4Ps beneficiaries.
On top of the P600 per month rice subsidy, 4Ps members also receive educational assistance of P300 for elementary students and P500 for high school students per month, and the health grant of P500 per family per month.
In Central Visayas , the 4Ps has around 300,000 beneficiaries identified by the Listahanan, previously known as the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR.)
According to Dr. Yolanda Navarro, NFA 7 director, the rice subsidy modification has been piloted in six regions: Regions 1, 2, 3, 4B, 6 and 9.
“By next year, Region 7 will already be included. We hope our pilot implementation in the regions will be successful so that we can see if there are any violent reactions from our beneficiaries,” she said in Tagalog.
“They could avail of the 20 kilos of rice per month at NFA warehouses or DA offices. We would also see to it that we could put up stations near banks where most of the beneficiaries withdraw their cash subsidy,” she added.
Navarro said an estimated total of 108,310 bags of rice per month will be needed to supply the monthly requirement for the rice subsidy program in Cebu.
Although Cebu is not a primary rice producing province in the region, she assured that there will be enough supply of rice for the province.
“Our rice will come from Iloilo and Region 4 in Mindoro. We already have an initial shipment of 20,000 bags of local rice, and we are expecting 620,000 bags for the consumption of Region 7,” she said in Tagalog.
With the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law, the NFA’s function has been limited to buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies. The rice supply will be sourced from local farmers.
The NFA 7 is currently having open sales of the remaining 194,000 bags of imported rice sold at P27 per kilo.
“After we dispose of all our imported rice, which is more or less two million bags in the whole Philippines, we will already use local rice for all our consumption,” Navarro said.
According to the Senate, the current oversupply of rice has caused average palay prices to plunge to P16.28 per kilogram, a seven-year low, from P23.10 per kilogram in the same period last year.