Guv told to ensure utilization of rice fund

A TOP national government official has ordered Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson to ensure that farmers in the province are rightfully availing themselves of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chair Cynthia Villar, on the sidelines of the 12th Philippine National Shrimp Congress at SMX Convention Center in Bacolod City Wednesday, November 20, said governors were given a list of 947 recipient-localities in the country with rice production areas of at least 100 hectares.

Villar told Lacson "you need to watch out if the small rice farmers are given machineries, inbreed seeds and fertilizers," adding that "this is part of our oversight function to call their attention to give you these services."

The RCEF, or Rice Fund, is created under the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law. The fund is taken from the tariff revenues of the rice being imported by the country.

The program mainly aims to help improve the competitiveness of Filipino rice farmers and augment their income while sustaining the resilience and responsiveness.

The RCEF has an annual appropriation of P10 billion a year for the next six years.

Of the amount, 50 percent or P5 billion will be allotted for rice farm machinery and equipment; 30 percent or P3 billion for rice seed development, propagation and promotion; 10 percent or P1 billion for expanded rice credit assistance; and another P1 billion, also 10 percent, for rice extension services.

In Negros Occidental, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has already started distributing certified seeds to recipient-farmers in the province.

PhilRice-Negros Occidental records showed that about 57,000 local rice farmers in 31 localities are getting a total of almost P174 million in seeds through RCEF.

The allocation is intended for two cropping seasons. Meaning, for seeds alone, the province will be receiving about P87 million per cropping.

Villar said the concerned agencies can be sued if they are not following what is provided by the law.

The governor, she said, can report to the Congress if RCEF is not implemented properly in the province.

"We need you to be our partner in making sure that our government agencies are following the law," Villar said, adding that "our work is not just legislate but also to make sure that laws are implemented."


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