The Department of Agriculture (DA) in tandem with the Provincial Government of Isabela and other partner agencies had launched the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) last October 12, 2019 in Roxas, Isabela.

Attended by almost 5,000 farmers, the RCEF was presented by Senator Cynthia Villar, Chair, Committee on Agriculture and Food and principal author of the Rice Tarrifation Law (RTL).

She said that RTL was certified a priority bill as endorsed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

“Likewise, we passed the law because as member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is a need for us to adhere to the international trade agreement as signed,” the senator equipped.

“We were given twenty five years to comply and make our farmers competitive but we failed.”

Villar explained that with this measure, the government can fully achieve the objective of having rice security specifically the availability and accessibility of safe rice at affordable prices.

The law also created the RCEF to improve rice farmers competitiveness and income amidst the liberalization of rice trade.

It provides an annual appropriation of P10 Billion for the six years following its enactment.

The key programs of RCEF are provision of farm machinery and equipment, seed development, propagation and promotion, expanded rice credit assistance and rice extension services.

She elaborated that if the generated annual tariff revenues from rice importation exceed P10 B, the excess revenues shall be earmarked by Congress in the following year to rice farmer financial assistance, titling of agricultural lands, expanded crop insurance program and crop diversification program.

Meanwhile, Dar re-echoed the senator’s statements.

“We need your help in solving the emerging issues after the passing of the law,” he said.

“I am happy to announce that Isabela will be our model in the entire nation as far as implementing measures that will ease farmers burden and help them rise up in their present situation.”

He cited the creation of the Nagkakaisang Magsasakang Isabelino (NMI), a super cooperative with an initial members of 6,000 farmers provincewide.

The cooperative will be engaged in palay trading, milling, processing and marketing.

According to NMI President Ana Cristina Go, a former representative of Isabela, they aim to double their membership in the coming years.

During the launching, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the cooperative for a P500 Million from the credit program of RCEF.

The super cooperative was a brainchild of Isabela Governor Rodito Albano III and strongly supported by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Governor Faustino Dy III.

In his remarks, Governor Albano acknowledged the efforts being exerted by DA and other agencies involved in the implementation of projects under the RCEF.

For machineries, this will be handled by Philippine Center for Postharvest Research and Development (PHILMECH), seed assistance by Philippine Rice Research Institute (PHILRICE), credit by DBP, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC) and extension services by Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Meanwhile, Roxas Mayor Totep Calderon expressed his thanks to all the agencies and entities for attending the launching.

“We are blessed with the presence of everyone as we tackle emerging issues in agriculture affecting all of us,” he said.

Others who attended the launching were key officials of DBP, local chief executives of Isabela, DA attached agencies and PayMaya, service provider of NMI members cards to be used in the marketing of their produce.