URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan—With one full year since the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), the Department of Agriculture (DA) and partner agencies, in cooperation with the local governments of Manaoag and Urdaneta, Pangasinan, conducted a national event to commemorate the law’s first anniversary of implementation.
With the theme “Sa Rice Tariffication Law, Lahat Tayo Panalo,” the celebration highlighted milestones under the law, specifically the component programs of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), namely, seed, mechanization, credit, and extension. During the event, heads and representatives from the RCEF implementing agencies presented their accomplishments and other plans.
As of February this year, the Philippine Rice Research Institute has distributed around 1.3 million certified inbred seeds to some 512,000 farmers in 713 cities and municipalities of the identified 57 priority provinces. These high-quality seeds covered 652,917 hectares.
For the mechanization component, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization has identified more than 600 farmers’ cooperative and associations as recipients of various machineries for rice production and processing. Training activities on machine and equipment operations were also conducted.
The Land Bank of the Philippines, on the other hand, has released a total of Php3.08 billion in loans and grant to 189,883 small farmers nationwide. Another Php3.9 billion loans was approved for local government units (LGUs) to help them cope with the law’s initial impact on rice farmers.
Meanwhile, the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has released Php283 million of the Php500 million working capital to the Magsasakang Isabela Agricultural Cooperative to use as capital to buy the palay of their 5,000 farmer-members.
Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Isidro Lapeña reported that 12,000 farmers were enrolled in farmers’ field schools and 1,500 of them already graduated. TESDA also assessed 140 farmer-scholars for the national competency certification as part of the rice extension services component.
Also, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) has established 25 RCEF-learning sites and attained 67% of its target in information caravans and technology briefings. Training activities for rice specialists and farmers were also conducted.
Meanwhile, Department of Finance (DOF) OIC-Division Chief Renzo Enrico Blanco, who represented Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in the event, said that the government has raised Php14 billion from tariffs on rice imports during the first year of the implementation of RTL.
In his message during the event, DA Secretary William Dar acknowledged the farmers as the key players of RTL-RCEF. He also stressed that RTL is the best reform that has happened in the country’s agricultural sector as it made possible the availability and affordability of rice for everyone.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, graced the event and addressed the farmers on the importance of mechanization, use of certified seeds, and proper training to attain rice productivity and profitability.
Prior to the program, a ceremonial harvest using combine harvester in a field planted with certified seeds from the RCEF-Seed Program was held in Manaoag, Pangasinan. Led by Sec. Dar and Dir. Gen. Lapeña and witnessed by more than 200 farmers and local officials, the activity aimed to emphasize mechanization as a key strategy in reducing production cost.
Likewise, simultaneous anniversary celebration was also conducted by ATI regional training centers nationwide.
The RTL national celebration was held at Urdaneta Cultural Center on March 5, 2020 with more than 1,000 farmers all over Pangasinan and personnel from RCEF implementing agencies, LGUs, and media.