(L-R) Representatives from DA-RFO6, PhilRice, LandBank, and TESDA answer the queries raised by the participants regarding RCEF.

ILOILO, City - “This our battle. We must work together to alleviate poverty and hunger,” this is the appeal of Dr. Eden DLR. Bautista, ATI Region 6’s Center Director, to the 280 attendees of the first Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Information Caravan (Info-caravan) for Region 6 on September 24, 2019 in Days Hotel, Iloilo City.

Ninety-nine Local Farmer Technicians (LFTs), 171 Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs), and 10 Sangguniang Bayan (SB) Members and other attendees around the Region participated in the said activity.

This information caravan is an awareness campaign designed to provide information about the RCEF’s benefits and services, which was created under the RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL). This activity also brought together the rice intermediaries – from the producers and consumers to give them the support that they need during the implementation of the program. It was identified that the beneficiaries of RCEF came from the 1,010 municipalities and 57 rice-growing provinces across the country including the five provinces in Western Visayas such as Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.

Based on RTL, RCEF has an allotted PHP10Billion budget annually that will be distributed to its four key components namely rice farm machinery and equipment with 50% of the budget that is assigned to the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech); seed development, propagation, and promotion with 30% of the budget which will be utilized by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); expanded rice credit assistance with 10% of the budget under the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP); and rice extension services also with 10% of the budget, which will be implemented in an integrated manner – 70% to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and 10% each to Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), PhilRice, and PHilMech.

RCEF components were explained in detail by Ms. Fennie Lyn A. Pantin, Science Research Specialist II of PhilRice-Negros Occidental; Mr. Jesus T. Maza, Account Officer of LBP-Iloilo; Ms. Jessica Juanico, Senior Assistant Vice President of DBP; and Ms. Noemely DG. Dolar, Provincial Director of TESDA-Iloilo. They discussed their corresponding programs and services under RCEF. Aside from them, representatives from the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office 6 (DA-RFO6) namely Ms. Cyrel Grace Quanico and Ms. Esther Ruth Franciso were also present.

An open forum was facilitated after the presentation of the support components of each agency’s representative. The participants raised the issues and concerns regarding RCEF specifically on the registration process of Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA), the distribution process of the seeds, the expected yields of the farmers, the insurance of the cash loans, and the National Certificate II (NCII) acquisition of the farmers.

A series of Provincial Info-Caravan in the five identified priority provinces will run from October 9 to November 8, 2019 with 400 farmer-participants per province.