Marcos admin, House working to attain ‘aspiration’ of rice self-sufficiency by 2028 – Speaker Romualdez

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has said the House of Representatives will do everything it can to help President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. attain its aspiration of rice self-sufficiency for the Philippines by the end of his term in 2028.

Speaker Romualdez said the end goal of everything that the Marcos administration has been doing in the agriculture front particularly when it comes to assisting rice farmers is self-sufficiency when it comes to the staple grain.

He said that key agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), are now putting in significant efforts to achieve a more efficient and productive agricultural sector.

“Lahat ng ito kino-converge natin para mas efficient ang paggamit ng pondo. Dati, ‘yung DA may programa, NIA may programa parang hindi nag-uusap. Pero, nag-uusap na tayo. So, we feel that sa puno’t dulo nito magkakaroon tayo ng rice self-sufficiency,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“Yan ang aspiraton,” the House leader said when asked if the goal was for the Philippines to no longer import rice by 2028.

“So all-of-government approach, so ‘yung Department of Agriculture, National Irrigation Authority, NFA (National Food Authority), siyempre ‘yung buong executive, ngayon ‘yung legislative nag sama-sama na,” Speaker Romualdez said.

The congressman from Leyte’s 1st district further explained how this approach would aid the administration in achieving rice self-sufficiency.

“Magco-constuct ang DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) ng mas maayos na CIS (Comprehensive Irrigation Systems), interconnected ito sa mga impounding para sa tubig, para kapag umulan may flood control na nag-aasikaso, mayroon ka nang patubig, mayroon ka pang reservoir, bulk water,” he said.

Speaker Romualdez underscored the need for long-term thinking in order to maintain food security for Filipinos.

“Food security, is national security. So, talagang mahalaga talaga itong programa na ito. Unang-una, gusto nating ibaba ang presyo ng bigas na abo’t kaya ng lahat ng Pilipino, kasi ang Presidente ayaw na ayaw niya na may mahirapan o magutom na Pilipino,” he said.

“Pero, hindi lang pwede na ganun ang iniisip, kaya ang long-term plan niya ay bago siya bumaba, we will no longer be dependent on rice imports. So, kailangan talaga rice self-sufficiency. So, kailangan mas efficient ang mga palayan natin, kailangan ng patubig at napakaraming patubig pa,” the Speaker stressed.

The House of Representatives had earlier assured local farmers of substantial government supports even as the Marcos administration moved to reduce tariffs on imported rice.

“We are relying on them, and we assure them that Congress, government, the people are behind them,” Speaker Romualdez said, with House Committee on Agriculture Chair Mark Enverga (Quezon, 1st District) and Committee on Appropriations Chair Zaldy Co (Ako Bicol Party-list) supporting his statement.

Enverga and Co said the reduction of tariffs under Executive Order (EO) No. 62, which decreases the levy on imported rice from 35 percent to 15 percent, will not jeopardize the welfare of local farmers.

Enverga reiterated the administration’s commitment to farmers, noting the substantial funding allocated for agricultural support and the projected requirements to sustain Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) initiatives for 2024. The RCEF is provided for under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

The current RCEF, allocates P10 billion annually from tariff collections on rice imports to finance farm mechanization, provision of better seeds, and training on new farming technologies.

Originally set to end this year, pending legislation aims to extend the Rice Fund until 2030 and increase its funding to P15 billion.

Data from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) shows that tariff collections on rice imports in the first five months of 2024 have already reached P22 billion, more than enough to cover the proposed higher allocation for the Rice Fund.

“Currently, there are P22 billion as stated by the [BOC]. At paalala po, June pa lang po ngayon, may taripa pa rin po, so may 15 percent tariff. Ibig sabihin, tataas pa rin ang collection for this year, so hindi po mapapabayaan ang ating mga farmers,” Enverga pointed out.

Enverga also noted that the highest financing given to the national rice program, resulting from efforts initiated by President Marcos and supported by Speaker Romualdez, underscores the administration’s commitment to bolstering the agriculture sector.

For his part, Co said that significant financial support and infrastructure projects for farmers are also fully secured for the upcoming year. “In fact, sa farmers na P10 billion tumaas pa po ng P22 billion as early as now. So wala pong kailangan na ikabahala ang ating mga farmers,” he declared.

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