THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) has been getting requests to extend the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) that is set to end in June 2024.

Dionisio Alvindia, executive director of PhilMech, said that he and officials of the agency have been receiving requests from local farmers and organizations to extend the RCEF.

“During the social preparation and training phases for qualified farmers’ groups, and the actual distribution of farm machines under the RCEF-Mechanization Program, we get pleas from both farmers and local officials to have the RCEF extended beyond June 2024,” Alvindia said.

Several farming leaders based in Kalinga recently declared their call to extend the RCEF.

We would like to request to Ma’am senator Cynthia Villar, we just started this 2022 yet the program is ending in 2024. We would like to request for an extension of the RCEF program so the assistance given to farmers will also be extended,” said Graciana Tombaga, chairman of the Holy Trinity Cathedral MPC.

We wish that RCEF be extended so more farmers like us can be assisted like when RCEF started. It was through the program that we got organized and was registered so we could avail of the machines. We want the program extended so more farmers can also get their farm machines for free,” said Leila Apita of Sagpat farmers association in Filipino.

“We want the program extended so there will be more farmers who will receive machines, and benefit from the assistance that will help them attain progress,” Frederick Aguban, bookkeeper of the PUR MPC, also pointed out in Filipino.

Meanwhile, John Paul Baguiwan, representing Gov. James Edduba of Kalinga, is one of the first local officials who formally requested to extend the enhancement fund. “If we may ask, we would like to ask for an extension of the RCEF program because if there is another six years, more farmers in our province will benefit from the program. That is our plea on behalf of our brothers and sisters here in Kalinga who are farmers,” Baguiwan said.

RCEF was mandated through Republic Act 11203 or the “Rice Tariffication Law” through provisions allocating tariffs collected from rice imports to programs to help local rice farmers and the rice industry to modernize.

PHilMech is implementing the RCEF-Mechanization Program with an allocation of P5 billion per year from 2019 to 2024, representing 50 percent of the P10-billion annual fund allocation. The remaining 50 percent is allocated as follows: P3 billion for the distribution of high-yielding seeds; P1 billion for training and capacitating farmers; and P1 billion for credit support. (Janine Alexis Miguel, The Manila Times)