RICE READY. The Department of Social Welfare and Development readies its strategies in time for the operation of the rice allocation for the 4Ps beneficiaries. The beneficiaries, DSWD said, have expressed positive feedback on the new arrangement if the goods will be distributed near them instead of going to their respective barangay halls to claim the rice. (PNA file photo)

MANILA — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been working closely with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) to distribute rice to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries instead of cash for the rice subsidy component of the program, an official said Wednesday.

“We have been conducting a lot of meetings with the NFA and DA to polish the strategy,” said DSWD Undersecretary Camilo Gudmalin, chair of the Technical Working Group on Rice Subsidy.

He said the distribution of actual rice to 4Ps beneficiaries is one way to help farmers cope with the present drop in rice prices.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food has approved the House joint resolution on October 25 while the Senate has approved on third and final reading its own version of the measure on November 4.

The House and Senate joint resolutions will be deliberated on during a bicameral session to come up with the final version which will be subsequently transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing.

DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said once it is approved, DSWD will be given the authority to transfer the remaining 2019 rice subsidy funds to NFA, which, in turn, will use the funds to buy rice from farmers.

“NFA shall be the only agency authorized to distribute rice to the 4Ps beneficiaries,” she added.

In a meeting on October 4, the three agencies discussed strategies on how to distribute the actual rice subsidy to 4Ps beneficiaries.

In the proposed agreements, the beneficiaries will pick-up their rice subsidy from the existing warehouses of NFA.

For those who live far from the warehouses, DSWD and NFA will designate distribution outlets where the beneficiaries could claim their subsidy.

The department, she said, will also tap associations under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) as designated distribution outlets, especially in areas where there are no NFA outlets or warehouses.

Dumlao said the DSWD and NFA will ensure that beneficiaries will not incur additional expenses in claiming their rice subsidy.

The DSWD said upon approval of the joint resolution, the department, together with NFA, will pilot the distribution of rice subsidy in kind in the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, MIMAROPA, Western Visayas, and Zamboanga until December 2019.

These regions were identified during the meeting with DSWD and NFA as areas where there is a surplus of palay based on the food agency’s report.

Aside from education and health grants, beneficiaries will also receive rice subsidy amounting to PHP600 per month which is given in cash.

It started in 2017 as directed by President Duterte during his first State of the Nation Address to provide the beneficiaries with additional assistance.

DSWD clarified that only the PHP600-subsidy will be converted into rice once the joint resolution has been approved. The educational grant of PHP300 and PHP500 for elementary and high school students, respectively, and the health grant of PHP500 will remain to be given in cash.

“The Department supports efforts to help farmers and assures that appropriate services will be provided to them during these difficult times,” Gudmalin added.