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Cayetano wants higher DA budget to procure more palay from local farmers

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The House leadership is planning to realign some P2 billion under the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget to finance the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) procurement of palay reserve from local farmers at a very reasonable price.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made the statement on Tuesday in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement last week for the DA, particularly the National Food Administration (NFA) to purchase palay from farmers in the countryside to help address the negative effects of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

“Definitely not lower than P9 billion, but we’re looking for much more,” said Cayetano during an ambush interview.

The DA under its proposed P71.8-billion budget for 2020 has only about P7 billion allotment for NFA to purchase palay from local farmers.

NFA is mandated under the law to purchase rice stocks from local farmers as a form of assured income.

Cayetano didn’t specify what portion of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be realigned for the said program.

“We’re looking for much more…. we’re still getting data from the DA. But based on our initial hearing, P7 billion is really too little,” said Cayetano.

Palay prices have plunged to as low as P6-P8 a kilo after the implementation of the RTL.

DA Sec. William Dar last week agreed to invoke Republic Act No. 8800 which will allow him to motu proprio impose safeguard duty on rice imports.

The said authority will allow the DA to increase the provisional tariff rate to 30 percent for the next 365 days for imports above the 350 metric tons—on top of the 35 percent provision under the RTL.

House Committee on Ways and Means chair Joey Salceda (Albay) said that the conditions for a surge duty have been met under RA 8800 since there are reported surge in imports in the first half of 2019—26 percent in first quarter and 1,492 percent in the second quarter.

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