Tens of thousands of rice farmers have availed of the PhP5,000 unconditional cash assistance pledged by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. with many more expected to withdraw their share of the PhP12-billion Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program ahead of the New Year celebrations.

As of December 27, 2023, a total 44,719 farmers tilling two hectares or less have so far benefited from the cash assistance earmarked by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for an estimated 2.4 million farmers.

The DA has tapped the Development Bank of the Philippines to distribute the funds. The state-owned bank, in turn, engaged homegrown fintech firm USSC, formerly RCPI, to use its over 850 stores nationwide as well as ATMs owned by other banks and other non-bank entities under BancNet for the cash grants distribution. 

USSC said of the target 2.38 million beneficiaries, a total 499,381 were enlisted only this year.

Jonathan Relucio, chief of branches at USSC, said they expect more withdrawals before New Year and in the first week of January.

Regions with the highest withdrawals of RFFA grants were CAR, CARAGA and MIMAROPA. 

“As we enter the New Year, we expect more disbursement files and letters of instruction to come in from the Department of Agriculture regional offices,” Relucio explained.

President Marcos had approved the release of the PhP12-billion financial package to rice farmer beneficiaries to “help them cope with the increasing cost of production and sustain their productivity even in the face of challenges like the coming El Nino.”   

The RFFA is an unconditional financial assistance to farmers funded by excess tariff collection from rice importations in 2022 that total PhP12 billion. The 2023 RFFA beneficiaries include farmers that registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture as of June 30, 2023.

As an unconditional cash grant, beneficiaries can use the amount for daily subsistence and personal needs. ### (photo by DA I-RAFIS)