Farmers and fishers in Leyte will be the pioneer recipients of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Fuel Subsidy Program.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Wednesday, the DA said the program will kick off during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Tacloban, Leyte on Thursday, March 17.

Duterte raised the DA budget with a PHP24-billion top-up early this month. The portion of the additional fund will go to the PHP500-million Fuel Subsidy Program.

The subsidy will be divided between the farmers and fishers.

In his guesting at the “Laging Handa” briefing, DA Secretary William Dar said the voucher or discount cards will be accepted in Department of Energy-approved stations.

“The distribution of fuel discount cards will be first availed by qualified corn farmers and fisherfolk in Leyte, where each will receive a total subsidy of PHP3,000. To avail of the 30-percent discount on diesel or gasoline fuel, they should present their respective discount card/voucher to the accredited stations,” he said.

Dar added that rice farmers will be exempted from the selection of recipients as they are beneficiaries of the annual PHP5,000 subsidy under the Rice Farmer Financial Assistance (RFFA) or Rice Fund that was created by the Rice Tariffication Law.

“Since 2020, Filipino rice farmers has received a yearly assistance of PHP5,000 through the RFFA. So, we are now prioritizing the fishers and corn farmers to benefit from this program,” Dar added.

The beneficiary rice farmers will again receive the yearly subsidy for 2022 this April, he added.

Meanwhile, DA Assistant Secretary-designate for Operations Arnel de Mesa said the regional offices of the DA will select the beneficiaries and will prioritize the most vulnerable and those who are registered under the Registered System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

“We have only PHP500 million so the DA will select the beneficiaries with priority to those in the RSBSA,” he said in a text message.

The RSBSA is an electronic compilation of basic information of farmers, farmworkers, fishers, and other target agriculture-related beneficiaries of the DA.

The DA also prioritizes fishermen who own motorized boats registered with the “FishR” of the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Based on the Implementing Guidelines for the Provision of Fuel Discount for Farmers and Fisherfolk, the beneficiaries of the fuel discount are farmers or fisherfolk who own and operate agricultural and fishery machinery individually or through a farmer organization, cooperative, or association.

Dar also announced the possibility of a second tranche for the program.

He said he has directed the DA’s National Corn Program and the BFAR, which serve as the program’s implementing agencies, to update the master list of qualified beneficiaries to accommodate more recipients, particularly for the second tranche as President Duterte and the Cabinet approved an additional PHP600-million funding. (PNA)