Department of Finance assistant secretary Ma. Teresita Habitan explain how the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund could help farmers.

The Department of Finance has already transferred some P6 billion in rice tariff collection to the Department of Agriculture to help finance its Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a facility designed by the government to assist Filipino farmers cope with the new rice regime where importation of cheaper grains is allowed and regulated.

Ma. Teresa Habitan, DOF assistant secretary, told reporters during the 2nd Agricultural Fishery Council summit here in Puerto Princesa City the finance department’s collection stood at P6 billion as of end of June.

“Naka-release na nong July, nag-release na ang DBM sa Department of Agriculture ng 6 billion, yon ay napunta na sa iba-ibang ahensya ng DA na pwedeng tumulong sa mechanization, modernization,” Habitan said.

She explained that under the rice tarification law, the RCEF will allow the government to assist farmers in improving their production through modernization, development of post harvest facilities, and other interventions including making credit more accessible.

Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Act which took effect in February is envisioned by the government to make quality rice more affordable to Filipino and at the same time prompt the agriculture sector to upgrade by empowering local farmers to become more competitive.

Habitan said the Department of Agriculture will play a key role in empowering local farmers to help them cope with the immediate impacts of rice importation to local harvests.

“Ang pinakamahalagang ahensya talaga dito ay Department of Agriculture. Sila talaga yong sentro, nasa kanila yong authority and the mandate para isulong at mapabilis ang pagbaba sa mga magsasaka ng RCEF,” she said.