THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) is starting to get pleas to extend the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which will end in June 2024.

PHilMech Executive Director Dionisio Alvindia said the agency has been getting pleas whenever they are on the field from local officials and farmers organizations on the need to extend 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 over the weekend.

One of the first local officials to formally sound an appeal to extend RCEF is from Kalinga.

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” John Paul Baguiwan, representative of Gov. James Edduba of Kalinga Province, said.

A number of farmer leaders in Kalinga also expressed their sentiments on extending RCEF.

We would like to request to Sen. Cynthia Villar: we just started this in 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, chair of the Holy Trinity Cathedral MPC.

For her part, Leila Apita, Sagpat farmers association said “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 can avail of the machines. We want the program extended so more farmers can also get their farm machines for free.”

Meanwhile, 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 allocation for the fund.

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.

RCEF was created by Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, which has provisions allocating all tariffs collected from rice imports for programs to benefit Filipino rice farmers and the industry. (Raadee S. Sausa, Business Mirror)