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The Department of Agriculture (DA) has released P223 million in aid for 46 thousand Capiz farmers.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced on Wednesday that the PHP233.1 million Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program for 46,637 qualifying farmers in the province of Capiz is still being distributed.

In an interview, DA Western Visayas Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter said the beneficiaries include rice farmers with a plot size of two hectares or less.

On February 7, the municipality of Cuartero began distributing PHP5,000 to each beneficiary.

Recoter expressed optimism that the distribution of the province’s remaining 16 towns will be completed by the first week of March.

The ongoing distribution, she noted, will not be delayed by the election period because the rice farmers have requested that it be released indefinitely to enable them to recover from Typhoon Odette, the threat of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), and the high cost of fertilizers.

“So we’re hoping the PHP5,000 will go toward fertilizer, other production inputs, and other domestic expenses,” Recoter explained.

The RFFA grantees are classified in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) as having less than two hectares of rice land.

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the RFFA will be funded using the PHP7 billion left over from the PHP10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) from import fees or taxes paid by rice importers.

“If there is an overabundance of taxes collected, the law states that the money can be used for crop insurance, land titling, agricultural diversification, or financial aid.” So there was an excess of PHP7 billion in financial assistance from 2019 to 2020,” Recoter said.

50 percent of the PHP10 billion will go to farm mechanization through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech), 30% to certified seeds through the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), 10% to training and extension through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and financing through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) (DBP).

Farmers are given their RSBSA identification cards during the distribution, which they can keep for the next three years in case they receive any rewards.

Meanwhile, the regional director stated that they hope to continue distribution of the LBP to the remaining 48, 658 rice farmers in Iloilo province this month or in March.

According to her, 68, 658 rice farmers in Iloilo are eligible for the assistance, which has a budget of PHP344 million.

“We started with over 20,000 last December for those whose names were on the Development Bank of the Philippines’ list,” she said.

Negros Occidental is still waiting for the LBP to start distributing the remaining 31, 839 farmers, despite the fact that the DBP has already finished the release of 13, 185 farmers.

The distribution in Aklan and Guimaras has already been accomplished, while the distribution schedule in Antique is still being worked out.

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