By CHARISSA ATIENZA
If enacted into law, the Rice Tariffication bill will bring in at least R20 billion every year to the agriculture sector that would improve and boost the local farmers’ productivity, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said yesterday.
“If this (R20 billion every year) will be collected efficiently, if that happens, we would be able to provide free seeds and fertilizers and improve the farmers’ productivity”, ” he told the House Committee on Appropriations during the deliberations on the DA’s proposed R49.8-billion cash-based budget for 2019.
House Bill 7735 or the proposed Rice Tariffication Act provides that all duties collected from the rice importation shall be channeled to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). The House of Representatives has terminated the plenary debates on the bill and put it to vote on second reading next week.
Piñol also assured with the proposed tariffication, the influx of imported rice would be controlled.
During the hearing, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman proposed that proceeds of the fund shall be released automatically to the DA in a periodic basis.
“We are not going to debate anymore on how the fund will be appropriated. We assure that the fund will be released automatically to the DA so that we will be able to help the Department of Agriculture and the country,” he said.
“We should craft a language in the bill, amending the bill that the proceeds of the fund will be released and utilized by the DA,” Lagman said.
Piñol assured that DA will properly spend the fund, which will solely benefit the country’s poor farmers.
“If this fund is turn over to RCEF, we will spend it as proposed under the bill, “ he said.
The DA top official noted that DA has improved its utilization rate from an unused budget of R9.959 billion in 2015, R7.7 billion in 2016 to R2.8 billion in 2017.
“I am happy to report that last year, our utilization rate was 94.8 percent. Perhaps, this is the highest utilization rate by any department. We continue improving on this,” Piñol said.