Lawmaker wants excess rice tax as cash aid

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Pangilinan is calling on the government to release as cash aid the excess in revenues from the Rice Tariffication Law as prices of palay (unhusked rice) continue to slide.

Pangilinan said farmers are currently in an emergency situation needing urgent assistance from the government to stay afloat.

“The life-saving measure is direct cash assistance especially to the small farmers now suffering from the plunge in the prices of palay and from the lack of other livelihood opportunities due to the pandemic,” he said.

Palay prices have reportedly dipped to as low as P11 per kilogram in some areas, way below their production cost.

The government has so far collected P10.728 billion in taxes from rice imports as of end-July, already meeting the P10 billion allocation for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Taxes collected in excess of the P10 billion may be allocated as cash assistance to farmers.

“We have an excess collection of P728 million as of July and this should directly benefit the farmers especially in these hard times,” Pangilinan said.

“We need to get the cash in their hands so they can continue to plant and put food on every Filipino’s table,” he said.

The lawmaker urged the Department of Agriculture to immediately address the situation, which he said is expected to happen regularly after the RTL was enacted last year.

The law opened the Philippine market to unlimited rice imports at higher tax rates. In November last year, the Philippines became the world’s top importer of rice overtaking China.

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