Bill to Make Philippines Self-Reliant, Self-Sufficient
Militant lawmakers at the House of Representatives today filed a bill that seeks to turn the Philippines into a self-reliant and self-sufficient rice producer in the next three years.
House Bill 3958 or the proposed “Rice Industry Development Act”, authored by Bayan Muna Reps. Satur C. Ocampo, Teodoro Casiņo, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, Gabriela Reps. Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan, aims to create a policy environment of sturdy state intervention that will institutionalize the core programs and nourish the development and protection of the rice industry.
These core programs under HB 3958 are: a) direct credit for rice farmers; b) sustained subsidy for production inputs; c) development of irrigation systems and post-harvest facilities; d) strengthening the palay procurement capability of the National Food Authority (NFA) and upgrading the distribution and marketing of rice; and e) provision for extension services.
In addition, the bill seeks to “institutionalize measures that will protect our rice lands from land use conversion so that the country will have the reserve to ensure that we can produce our main staple at levels required for food self-sufficiency.”
Under the bill, a seed fund of P15 billion for a collateral-free credit, to be allocated and released a t P5 billion every year for three years shall be made available to farmers and farmers’ organization or farm production cooperatives as loans for the “exclusive purpose” of rice production and rice production related endeavors.
“An amount of Three Billion Pesos (P 3 B) to be allocated annually at One Billion Pesos (P1 B) for three (3) years from the annual appropriation” of the proposed measure “is appropriated for the provision of production subsidy for rice farmers.”
The proposed Rice Industry Development Act also seeks to allocate P15 billion a year for the development of irrigation systems and post harvest facilities. “Notwithstanding the provisions of Republic Act 8534, the payment of fees for the use of irrigation systems maintained or operated by private irrigators associations and local government units shall be regulated by the National Irrigation Administration.”
“In addition to the present budget of the National Food Authority,” the bill stated, “the amount of Fifteen Billion Pesos (P 15 B) will be allocated annually for the sole purpose of strengthening the palay procurement capability of the NFA, and shall be used exclusively for the purchase of palay from rice farmers at farm gate prices that will ensure a just and decent economic return for rice farmers, particularly the small-scale rice farmers.”
HB 3958 strictly prohibits the conversion into other uses or crops of rice lands. It likewise strictly prohibits any person to perform such acts that cause the diminution of the economic viability or productivity of existing rice lands, or such acts that destroy or undermine the sustainability of rice production in rice lands, including the destruction of their ecological soundness.
“This bill seeks to do away with the policy of importation as first option. Our country has a very high potential for rice self-reliance and self-sufficiency as to attain food security in our main staple,” Ocampo said.
“What is left for us to do is to develop these potentials to build a rice industry with the strong capability to meet our consumption requirements. To resolve the present rice crisis and prevent another one, there is no other alternative but to produce by ourselves the rice that we eat and we can only do this if we mold and develop our rice industry into one that is productively capable to meet our consumption requirements,” the Bayan Muna lawmaker added. #