House allots P10 billion for palay buying
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said he and his colleagues have decided to increase the palay-buying fund of the National Food Authority (NFA) from P7 billion to P10 billion.
Victor Martin/File
House allots P10 billion for palay buying
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has allocated P10 billion for palay procurement to prop up the price for the produce of more than two million rice farmers.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said he and his colleagues have decided to increase the palay-buying fund of the National Food Authority (NFA) from P7 billion to P10 billion.

He said Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, has already found sources in the proposed national budget for next year for the P3 billion augmentation.

“But we would like to go higher than P10 billion. However, the additional money to buy palay to help our farmers would go to naught if we do not adopt a comprehensive approach to family-size farming, and making this type of farming and agrarian reform effective in our country,” Cayetano said.

According to House members representing farmers, the palay-buying price has fallen to as low as P7 per kilo, P5 lower than the production cost of P12 per kilo.

Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman said the NFA, while waiting for additional funds, “is not without options to raise money to enable it to buy more palay and force the price to go up to the benefit of our farmers.”

“The NFA could sell its rice stocks, both imported and local. We are informed that it still has imported rice in its warehouses, although it has stopped importing when the rice liberalization law was enacted. By unloading it and buying more palay, the agency would not only boost the palay price but influence rice prices to go down as well,” he said.

Alternatively, Romero, an economist, said the NFA could use its credit line with Land Bank and other banks.

“I am sure Land Bank, which is owned by the government, would only be willing to lend the agency more money for palay procurement,” he added.

Romero noted that the state bank has recently come under criticism from no less than President Duterte for allegedly failing to carry out its principal mandate of helping farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Romero has filed a bill to compel Land Bank to allot at least 60 percent of its loanable funds for lending to farmers.

Mindanao rice export deal

Mindanao farmers shall soon be selling organic rice and Adlai heirloom grain to American consumers, which shall be coursed through a US-based marketing company, D&L Oil and Gas LLC.

D&L and local organic and Adlai farmers signed the marketing deal, which covers an unlimited volume of white, brown, red and black rice, including the exotic Adlai grown by tribes of the Southern Philippines. An initial shipment of 5,000 metric tons is expected before the end of the year.

Gov’t pay hike, OFW measures prioritized

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said a recent meeting between leaders of the House and the Senate and administration officials identified several other priority legislative measures.

He said among the proposals the two sides agreed to prioritize are the salary increase for government personnel and the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.

Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas said the planned government pay hike would not require any additional tax on the public.

According to Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who is ways and means committee chairman, the planned salary adjustment would amount to 15 percent over three years – from 2020 to 2022 – or an annual average of five percent.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the five percent increase would not fulfill President Duterte’s promise to public teachers and nurses of a substantial salary increase.

“It’s just a pittance. It is barely enough for inflation, which means that in real terms, the more than one million rank-and-file personnel will not get any pay hike,” he said. – With Edith Regalado

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