House members ramp up appeal for senators to pass RTL amendment bill

HOUSE leaders on Tuesday intensified their call for senators to pass amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) to further help rice farmers and make the staple food affordable for poor families.

“I appeal to our friends in the Senate to please, please, please expedite the passage of this measure, of this very urgent and important measure,” Assistant Majority Leader and Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Mikaela Angela “Mika” Suansing said during the regular press conference at the House of Representatives.

She continued, “Because at the end of the day po our primary objective is two-fold: one is mabigyan po natin ng access iyong mga pinakamahihirap na mga pamilyang Pilipino sa mas murang bigas; at pangalawa po ay matulungan natin iyong ating mga magsasaka na mapababa iyong cost of production nila.”

Suansing is one of the main authors of House Bill  (HB) No. 10381, a substitute bill aimed at improving the competitiveness and resilience of the rice industry and ensuring affordable access to rice for all Filipinos, by amending the five-year-old RTL.

The House is set to approve the substitute bill on second reading this week and on third reading before the 19th Congress adjourns its second regular session next week.

While it wasn’t the intention of the House version, Sen. Cynthia Villar had earlier voiced her opposition to reinstating the power of the National Food Authority (NFA) to import and sell rice.

She raised concerns about corruption and questioned the NFA’s commitment to protecting the welfare of rice farmers and consumers.

In the same press conference, Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman said rice farmers oppose the current RTL and joined Suansing in urging senators, especially Villar, who heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, to reconsider.

“Maybe our friends in the Senate would listen and I’m confident that the Chairperson at the Committee on Agriculture will find it also in her heart, nasa Senado si Chair Cynthia Villar, I know she’s a good person. She has compassion in her heart and this would be a very, very good legacy for our farmers,” Roman said.

Roman said the passage of the initial version of the RTL does not imply an inability to make improvements, as she emphasized the importance of an ongoing dialogue with farmers to better understand their needs and challenges, thereby enabling continuous enhancements to the law.

“Kapag pinakinggan ninyo mga mahal naming mga senador ang ating mga magsasaka, maniwala kayo nagkakaisa sila sa kanilang tinig na dapat baguhin itong RTL at ginagawa na po namin ito sa House,” Roman said.

She added, “Let’s walk the talk. Nakakasawa na kasi, di ba? Lagi na lang sinasabi the proverbial, ah itong ating magsasaka sila ang naglalagay ng pagkain sa hapag-kainan ng ating mga pamilyang Pilipino, mahalaga sila, but show the love.”

Last Monday, Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga, chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, explained that the role of NFA is limited to price stabilization and supply regulation.

Enverga said the NFA can only intervene in the market during emergency situations, such as in cases where rice prices increase excessively or acute rice shortages occur.

He also clarified that importation by the NFA is “merely a last resort.”

The substitute bill mainly focuses on continuing the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which aims to address long-term challenges in the rice industry.

The bill proposes that the base amount of the RCEF be increased from the current P10 billion to P15 billion.

The proposed measure authorizes the NFA to require registration of all grain warehouses and conduct inspections to ensure compliance with rice quality and supply standards.

It also mandates the maintenance of sufficient buffer stock requirements sourced from local farmers’ organizations and cooperatives.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. had earlier expressed his intention to certify the bill amending RTL as urgent.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said the intention was to have the RTL amended by July, aiming to lower rice prices to less than P30 and thereby making rice more affordable for every Filipino family.

Currently, rice retails between P40-45 and sometimes exceeds P50.

“By amending the RTL, we aim to bring about tangible reductions in rice prices, ensuring that Filipino consumers are not unduly burdened by high food costs,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“Lowering rice prices to less than P30 is a crucial step towards ensuring food security and economic stability for all,” he added.


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