Koronadal City, South Cotabato – Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Jr. during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on February 8, 2021, highlighted the agriculture sector of the Province of South Cotabato.
“Ang agrikultura ang pinaniniwalaan ng administrasyong ito na magiging katuwang natin upang maiangat ang ekonomiya na meron tayo. Sa agrikutura rin naka depende ang Food Security na meron ang isang kumunidad,” the governor declared.
However, in the course of his administration’s first month, the prices of palay suddenly dropped due to the Rice Tariffication Law. The average farmgate price of wet palay went down further to only twelve pesos (P12.00) per kilogram.
To review, Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) was signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on February 14, 2019 and took effect on March 5 of the same year. The law removed government limits, called quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice importation. Traders could now bring in unlimited volumes of rice at any time. RA 11203 far exceeded Philippine commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by deregulating the rice industry and eliminating practically all regulatory and trading functions of the National Food Authority (NFA) and reducing it to a buffer stocking and calamity relief agency.
As a result, the Provincial Government of South Cotabato (PGSC) immediately implemented the Palay Support Fund Program which aims to support and help more farmers get reasonable prices out of their palay produce. Through this program, the PGSC purchased South Cotabato farmers’ wet palay for nineteen pesos (P19.00) per kilogram, one of the highest rates in the entire country.
“Noong 2019, nakabili tayo ng humigit kumulang sampung milyong piso (P10Million) na halaga ng palay. Noong Abril hanggang Oktubre 2020, nakabili tayo ng P15,142,447.74 na halaga o 734.3 metric ton ng inisyal na palay. Dahil dito, tayo ay nakatulong sa 138 na magsasaka,” said Governor Tamayo.
For the year 2021, the governor intentionally mandated an additional funding of fifteen million pesos (P15M) to the program.
“Ngayong taon, nagpadagdag pa tayo ng 15 milyong piso para mas maparami pa natin ang makakabenepisyong magsasaka at maiwasang maubusan ng pondo ang OPAG (Provincial Agriculture Office) sa pag bili ng mga palay sa ating mga magsasaka,” the governor said.
He believes that this program would be sustainable, since the process involves buying wet palay at P19.00 per kilogram, and then having it processed so it becomes a well-milled rice, which will eventually be sold to the offices under the PGSC. These offices include the Provincial Jail, the Provincial and District Hospitals, and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), among others. The money that will be raised from such transactions will be used again to purchase more wet palay, and the cycle continues.
The said program not only allowed the farmers to earn more, but it also increased the amount of the PGSC’s trust fund for this purpose.