Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya!

Advanced New Year’s gift: Rice farmers get more aid from Department of Agriculture

Author: DA-AFID | 29 December 2023

Three days after Christmas, rice farmer Marison Piloy went down the hills where his farm is located in the remote village of Tio-Angan in Bagulin, La Union to receive forage choppers, trowels, sprinklers, and mineral blocks (for livestock) from field officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA). 

Piloy was among 1,791 rice farmers who journeyed to the town center to accept the farm inputs under the livelihood projects of the DA’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program Phase 2. 

To their pleasant surprise, Piloy and his neighbors from Sitio Sinabugan also received cash cards that would allow them to withdraw the P5,000 unconditional cash transfer from excess tariffs collected in the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

“We didn’t expect to receive our cash card today. It was nice to have something to buy for farm equipment like fertilizer and so on. Thank you for the continued support of the DA to us. Since SAAD, our farm life has become easier as there are more cows in Sinabugan. We even use farm machinery in the fields,” Piloy, a member of the Sinabugan Farmers’ Association, remarked in Ilocano.

Officially called the Interventions Monitoring Cards (IMC) for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund-Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RCEF-RFFA), the cash cards are being distributed to an estimated 2.4 million rice farmers tilling two hectares of land and below.

The RFFA is an unconditional financial assistance to farmers funded by excess tariff collection from rice importations in 2022 that total P12 billion. The 2023 RFFA beneficiaries include farmers that registered in the  Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture as of June 30, 2023.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has approved the release of P12 billion RFFA ahead of the New Year celebrations to help rice farmers “cope with the increasing cost of production and sustain their productivity even in the face of challenges like the coming El Niño.”

To implement the President’s instructions, the DA has tapped the Development Bank of the Philippines to distribute the funds. The state-owned bank, in turn, engaged homegrown fintech firm USCC, formerly RCPI, to use its over 850 stores nationwide as well as ATMs owned by other banks and other non-bank entities under BancNet for the cash grants distribution. 

During the distribution of the farm inputs, Bagulin municipal agriculturist, Engr. Juvy Sagapan, told the Bagulin rice farmers that the cash cards are already funded.

“I am glad that our farmers happened travelled down from their barrio just as those [IMC] cards already have funds. This serves as an advance gift for the new year. I am also very grateful that the Director personally came to hand over these assistance, especially to the Sinabugan farmers because they seldom receive the intervention as [the sitio] is far away,” Sagapan said in the dialect.

Analiza Ramos, head of the Field Operations Division of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office in Ilocos Region (DA-RFO1), said Bagulin is the first municipality in La Union to receive the RTL benefit for 2023. She said La Union has 15,088 RFFA recipients.

Aside from the cash cards and farm inputs, DA-RFO I Regional Executive Director Dr. Annie Bares also delivered food packs to the members of Piloy’s association. She gave them her assurance that the agency will strive to achieve higher productivity and income for farmers.

During her consultation and dialogue with the farmers, Dr. Bares learned that the farmers of Sitio Sinabugan urgently need water supply for the vegetables and other crops they planted on top of the hills. 

“One of these days, we will be sending our engineers to inspect the area for the possible establishment of an irrigation system or provision of pump and engine sets. Also, we will refer you to the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) for the linkage of your produce to prospective buyers or sell through our Kadiwa market,” Dr. Bares said.

Since October this year, the Sinabugan farmers have already harvested cucumbers and tomatoes as part of the SAAD intervention, but they could only sell their produce at low prices due to lack of access to other markets. 

Bagulin is located on the eastern part of La Union bordering Kapangan, Benguet.  Tio-Angan is estimated at 194.4 meters above sea level.  For comparison, Tagaytay is about 600 meters above sea level. ### (DA I- RAFIS)

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