Solons file Rice Industry Dev’t bill at Congress

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

October 17, 2018, 6:07 pm

MANILA – Lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives on Wednesday filed a measure seeking to boost the country's rice industry.

The seven-member bloc filed House Bill No. 8512, otherwise known as the Rice Industry Development Act.

The Makabayan bloc consists of Gabriela Reps. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.

In their explanatory note, the lawmakers said the bill seeks to lift the country's rice industry from the "multi-dimensional crisis" characterized by high production costs, low prices of palay (unhusked rice), underproduction, dominance of cartels, and reliance on production.

They said the bill proposes a PHP495-billion allocation for implementing within three years its nucleus and complementary core programs.

The nucleus program of the bill will provide rice farmers a holistic production support program, consisting of installing a collateral-free credit facility, farm inputs support, provision of power tillers and threshers, and crop insurance.

They said the subtext of the program is a poverty reduction thrust that will provide focused intervention for targeted beneficiaries made up of the poorest rice farmers.

"The nucleus program and its subtext will address the inability of our rice farmers to accumulate funds for improving their productivity because of the dysfunctional property regime that slices a big chunk from the share of our rice farmers in the produce," they said.

The core programs that complement the nucleus program shall provide for the necessary infrastructure requirements – from irrigation to post-harvest, meant to enhance the productivity of the nation's rice industry.

The bill shall also boost research and development of appropriate technology for different rice production systems, offer extension service program and capability-building for rice farmers.

The lawmakers highlighted that a crucial part of the core programs is the creation of the policy and legal environment for protecting rice lands from conversion and reclassification and protecting farmers from ejectment and various exaction schemes.
The bill also seeks to strengthen the National Food Authority to better fulfill its main function of procuring palay from rice farmers for reserve and buffer stocking at higher farm gate prices.

The bill seeks to create a National Rice Supply Security Council whose main function is to ensure that importation is resorted to only in times when local production has been proven to be incapable of filling rice supply shortages in the domestic market. (PNA)