By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Jennifer P. Rendon
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday has again called the public to take part in guarding the society against fraudsters.
Marcos made the call when he distributed smuggled rice that was seized by authorities recently to 3,000 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries in the three provinces in Western Visayas.
Marcos, who was in Roxas City, Capiz for a rice distribution program to more than 1,000 beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) 4Ps program, was apparently referring to smugglers and hoarders.
“Tunay ma nakakagalit ang mga smugglers at hoarders na ‘yan kaya tumataas ang mga bilihin dahil sa kanilang gawain,” he said.
Marcos then reiterated his call to Congress for the amendment of some laws relative to agricultural economic sabotage.
Recently, Marcos has certified as urgent a measure defining the crime of agricultural economic sabotage, providing penalties, and also creating an anti-agricultural economic sabotage council.
He certified as urgent the approval of Senate Bill No. 2432 (Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act), which repeals Republic Act No. 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.
“The bill seeks to promote the productivity of the agriculture sector and to protect farmers and fisherfolk from unscrupulous traders and importers and ensure reasonable and affordable prices of agricultural and fishery products for consumers.”
It also imposed stiffer penalties on smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural and fishery products, including a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine thrice the value of the agricultural and fishery products subject to the crime as economic sabotage.
“Mga kababayan, gaano man kalaki ang kanilang sindikato tulad ng natimbog natin ng smugglers sa pier ng Zamboanga, wala pong binatbat yan sa nagkakaisa nating lakas,” he said.
It can be noted that the Bureau of Customs – Port of Zamboanga (BOC-POZ) confiscated
42,180 smuggled sacks worth P42 million during its warehouse search in Barangay San Jose Gusu, Zamboanga City last September 15.
“Kaya kung may nalalaman po kayong sangkot sa ganitong transaksyon, wag po kayong matakot na magsumbong. Tandaan po ninyo, kasabay ng pagsulong ng bagong Pilipinas ay ang pagkakaroon ng payapa, masagana, at matatag na buhay,” he said.
A total of 3,000 4Ps beneficiaries in the three provinces in Western Visayas received 25-kilo rice packs of confiscated smuggled rice on October 6.
President Marcos Jr. personally distributed a portion of the smuggled rice to 1,000 4Ps beneficiaries each in the provinces of Antique, Aklan, and Capiz.
DSWD-6 said the beneficiaries of the rice packs are 4Ps households whose level of well-being is either “survival” or “subsistence” based on the Social Welfare Development Indicator, a case management tool used for the program.
The agency noted that 679 of the beneficiaries in Capiz were 4Ps households affected by the toxic red tide. In Antique, 13 are backyard piggery owners affected by the African Swine Fever while 121 are victims of the typhoon Goring.
Aside from the distribution of rice, Marcos also turned over Seed Capital Funds (SCF) to Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) Associations in the three provinces.
A P1.785 million worth of SCF was given to SLP Associations in Capiz who are engaged in catfish production, balut production, retailing, community enterprise, and abaca trading.
In Aklan, two SLP Associations engaged in agricultural supply and motorcycle parts and accessories enterprise were given P600,000 worth of SCF
Meanwhile, a P1.4-million aid was extended to 5 SLP Associations in Antique, who venture into bakery, cattle raising, and enterprise on rice and fishing supplies.
“Masaya po ako na makitang maraming natutulungan ang ating mga proyekto. Ibig sabihin lamang po nito ay tama ang tinutungo ng ating direksyon para sa pamumuno,” Marcos said in his speech at the distribution in Capiz.
In the Capiz distribution, Marcos revealed that around 10,000 farmers in the province will be given financial assistance through the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) this year.
The RFFA is an “unconditional” financial aid to farmers tilling below two hectares of land as mandated under the Cash Assistance to Filipino Farmers Act of 2021 or Republic Act 11598.
He added that small rice farmers in the province will also benefit from the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RECF) to sustain the productivity and competitiveness of local farmers by providing machinery, farm inputs, and training.
Marcos, who is also the concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, further directed the DA and Department of Finance to expedite the distribution of the monetary assistance.
“Umpisa pa lang po ito sa mga hakbangin ng gobyerno upang mapaunlad ang buhay ng mga Pilipino— mula sa pagpapalakas ng agrikultura ng bansa at sa pagpapalawig ng mga benepisyong handog ng iba pang mga sektor,” he added.
RICE FUND DISTRIBUTION
Marcos Jr. also directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Finance (DOF) to hasten the distribution of aid to rice farmers.
The Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Rice Fund), which was created through Republic Act 11203, aims to improve the competitiveness of rice farmers and increase their income amidst the liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy including, among other provisions, the lifting of quantitative restriction on rice import and replacing it with tariff.
The fund establishes the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) which aims to complement and supplement the existing Department of Agriculture – National Rice Program (DA-NRP).
The RCEP has four key components: 1) rice farm mechanization; 2) inbred rice seed development, propagation, and promotion; 3) expanded rice credit assistance; and 4) rice extension services. The implementation of these components shall be integrated and consistent with the existing DA interventions.
“Marami pong malilit na mga magsasaka ang matutulungan ng Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund sa pamamagitan ng makinarya, mga punla, mag pagsasanay at seminar at pagpahiram ng puhunan para sa kanila,” Marcos said.
He stressed that his administration is committed to helping farmers improve their productivity.
“Isa lang po ito sa mga hakbangin ng gobyerno para mapaunlad ang buhay ng mga Pilipino – mula sa pagpapalakas ng agrikuktura ng bansa at sa pagpapalawig ng mga benepisyong handog ng iba pang mga sector,” he said.
Marcos said he’s happy knowing that the government’s various projects have helped
“Ibig sabihin lang po nito ay tama ang tinutungo ng ating direksyon sa pamumuno,” he said.
He added that those who will benefit from heh program to work hard and persevere to improve their way of life.