The Department of Agriculture-Central Office (DA-CO) through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund-Program Management Office (RCEF-PMO) is set to facilitate the amendments and crafting of more specific guidelines and protocols to specifically address the challenges being experienced in the implementation of unconditional rice farmers financial assistance or RFFA nationwide.
During the FY 2022 national assessment of RCEF and RFFA programs on January 30-February 3, 2023 salient issues and concerns were tackled by the regional field offices (RFOs) and implementing agencies and the ways forward to address these matters. A major agreement that spurred from the discussions is the review of existing guidelines on RFFA for possible amendments in consideration to the specific experiences of the RFOs in the distribution of cash assistance, causing for the delay or non-claim of farmer-beneficiaries. Additional guidelines will be further prepared to cater to special cases on the ground as raised by the RFOs. These guidelines include, but are not limited to, the correction of incorrect information of farmer-beneficiaries, determination of entitled deceased farmers and their authorized next kin to claim on their behalf, protocols for bed-ridden farmers, and those in far-flung/isolated areas, among others.
The revisions and additional guidelines will be crafted in consultation with the DA-RFOs through an online platform within the agreed timeline.
Meanwhile, the RFOs are still amenable to continue the caravans for payouts as these have accordingly facilitated the higher payout outcome in their regions compared to on-site payouts in the servicing centers/branches. Ms. Rallen Verdadero of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) also shared that for this year, the farmers’ Intervention Monitoring Cards (IMC) is leveled-up into an ATM card that can be catered by BancNets allowing the farmers to cash out even in non-USSC branches with minimal service fees. The DBP through its Financial Technology partner, Universal Storefront Services Corporation (USSC), committed to release all the IMCs in batches within February 2023 with priority to provinces in regions with special cases as agreed in the assessment.
Verdadero pointed out the importance of having a hybrid transaction, particularly the use of ATM cards from the full face-to-face payout. According to her, it is a preparatory step for the farmers to be familiarized in the use of cards and to level-up their transactions, on top of establishing their valid personal information with the government. She is hopeful that through these steps, the government, particularly the DA and the partner banks will have clean data on farmers that can be regularly updated. Hence, it reduces or prevents the chances of incorrect information causing delays, especially when implementing similar programs in the future.
The RFFA is one of the five components of the RCEF Program that was created after the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019. Other components of the RCEF are seed, mechanization, credit, and extension that are being spearheaded by the different implementing agencies and units of DA.
In closing, DA Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa in a recorded message, emphasized that the assessment is imperative to evaluate performance and check whether the implementation is on track towards the targets of the Program. He also shared that another milestone for the program is the creation of the impact monitoring system that aims to provide a solid empirical basis for the determination of the program’s impact. “The system is a sharing of data between and among the implementing agencies,” he added as he commended the DA-PhilRice for taking the lead in its creation.
ASec de Mesa then calls upon and asks for the assurance of the implementing agencies and DA-concerned implementing units to ensure the attainment of the program’s targets and commitments.
The national assessment which was conducted in a hybrid setting was participated in by key representatives from the RCEF and RFFA implementing agencies, DA-attached bureaus and agencies, partner-implementers specifically the DBP and LandBank of the Philippines, Office of Senator Cynthia Villar, implementing units from the DA-CO, and focal persons from the RFOs. By JBAgrifino