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EYE TO EYE

June 17, 2024 Jester P. Manalastas 78 views

THE House of Representatives and the Senate are close to an agreement on the amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

This is according to Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez following his first official meeting with Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

“Ongoing po at mukhang nagkakasunduan na ang House at ang Senate at mukhang malapit na. Matatapos din at magkakaroon tayo ng magandang resolusyon,” Romualdez said when interviewed by reporters on the sidelines of the Agriculture Convergence Event in Tiaong town, Quezon province.

The event marked the district launch of the Farmers Assistance for Recovery and Modernization (FARM) program and the payout of assistance under the Tulong Panghanapbuhay Para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

As guest of honor and keynote speaker during the event organized by Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. David “Jay-jay” Suarez, Speaker Romualdez cited the ongoing efforts to amend the RTL to provide further support to farmers and relief to consumers grappling from high rice prices.

The House leader emphasized the chamber’s support for the National Food Authority (NFA) and its initiative to sell rice purchased directly from farmers to the public.

“Marami pa po tayong mga kasama sa adhikaing mapalago ang ating sektor ng agrikultura. Nariyan ang NFA na tinutulungan namin sa Kamara de Representantes na muling makapagbenta ng bigas na kanilang binili sa inyo direkta sa ating mga kababayan,” the Speaker told the audience, comprising of local farmers.

Romualdez underscored that these efforts, including the proposed amendments to the RTL, reflect the unwavering commitment to support President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s vision of revitalizing the agricultural sector and uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers.

The discussion on RTL amendments was a focal point in Speaker Romualdez’s first official meeting with Senate President Escudero at the Aguado Residence in Malacañang last Thursday.

The amendments aim to ensure food security and economic stability for farmers by providing affordable quality rice to Filipinos and increasing farmers’ incomes.

“Amending the Rice Tariffication Law is a crucial step towards ensuring food security and economic stability for our farmers,” he said.

“We are committed to making quality rice affordable for all Filipinos while boosting the livelihoods of our local farmers,” he added.

The highlight of the Agriculture Convergence Event was the distribution of cash aid to nearly 4,000 farmers through the DOLE’s TUPAD program.

The simple rites at the Tiaong Convention Center exemplified the government’s ongoing efforts to provide tangible support to the agricultural community.

Speaker Romualdez’s presence and speech at the event underscored the House’s commitment to fostering agricultural growth and ensuring the welfare of Filipino farmers.

Last May 21, the House approved on third and final reading the amendments to the RTL under House Bill (HB) No. 10381.

The bill seeks to enhance the government’s buffer stocking capabilities and authorize market interventions to stabilize rice prices during emergency situations, ultimately easing the burden on consumers.

Under the bill, the NFA is tasked with registering and monitoring all grain warehouses, ensuring compliance with rice quality and supply standards, and maintaining a national database.

The NFA is mandated to maintain sufficient buffer stock requirements sourced from local farmers or farmer organizations.

If necessary, the NFA can purchase local milled rice or import rice with explicit authorization from the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The DA Secretary can declare a food security emergency due to factors such as shortage in rice supply or sustained increase in rice prices.