SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – To enhance farmers’ resiliency and cushion the impact of oil price hike, the Department of Agriculture in Bicol launched the Fuel Discount Voucher Program for corn farmers and fishers on May 7, 2022.

Some 50 corn farmers and 25 fishermen of Baao and Sangay, Camarines Sur were the first batch of recipients of the Fuel Discount or subsidy in Bicol.

Fuel discount cash cards containing P3,000 were distributed to the RSBSA-listed corn farmers during the launch.

A total of P500 Million has been allocated nationwide for this fuel discount for corn farmers and fishers who own and operate agricultural and fishery machinery individually or through a farmer organization, cooperative or association (FCAs).

In Bicol, 3,880 corns farmers will receive the P3,000 fuel subsidy with a total allotted funds of P11.6M.

Farm machineries for fuel discount include pumps, engines, tractors, combine harvesters, and corn shellers among others.Fuel discount cards containing P3,000 were issued by the USSC to the farmer-beneficiaries.

According to Earl Vincent Vegas, DA Bicol Corn Program coordinator, this subsidy must only be used to buy gasoline or diesel from the participating or accredited gasoline stations.

To qualify for the fuel subsidy, a corn farmer must be registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and encoded in the Farmers and Fisherfolk Registry System (FFRS). The beneficiary or his/her association must also own machinery which can be proven by the following proof of ownership: Certificate of Agricultural and Fishery Machinery and Equipment Registration from LGU; Certification from the Municipal Agriculture Office that the farmer/fisher or association is the owner of the machinery; Sales/Cash Invoice/Official Receipt of the machinery; Memorandum of Agreement including Property Transfer Receipt; or deed of donation. The machineries including proof of ownership and geotagged photo of the farmer shall be enrolled in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Management Information System (ABEMIS).

During the distribution of fuel subsidy cash cards, the beneficiaries are required to present a valid ID during the Farmer On-Boarding or face-to-face Know-Your-Client (KYC). Fintech partner shall conduct an on-site farmer verification to have a liveness check before the issuance of the cash cards.

One farmer-recipient of the fuel subsidy is Jaymar Rivera, 30 years old President of Kilomaon Integrated Farmers Association in Sangay, Camarines Sur. He expressed his appreciation of the subsidy saying “Malaking tulong po itong fuel subsidy sa amin dahil mayroon po kaming corn sheller, thresher at recirculating dryer na binigay din po sa amin ng DA nang mga nakaraang taon. Doon po namin gagamitin itong natanggap naming fuel subsidy.”His association has been included in the Farm and Fishery Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) under the DA – Corn Program in 2021. “Salamat po sa DA dahil yung programa ng gobyerno ay nakakarating sa amin kahit nasa bundok kami,” Rivera added.

The Rice Farmer’s Financial Subsidy (RFFA) worth P5,000 were also given to 50 rice farmers on said date. Adelina A. Losa, chief of the AMAD said that May is celebrated as farmers’ and fisherfolk’s month and the distribution of fuel subsidy and RFFA cash assistance was one way of honoring the Bicolano farmers. Losa added that the 2021 RFFA is the third batch of annual cash assistance to farmers for CY 2021 coming from the tariff collected from the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The DA has been extensively promoting mechanization to modernize and enhance productivity in the agriculture and fishery sector. Fuel expenses are therefore one of the most important components of the operating cost in farming and fishing.

The launching was also attended by DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla; RAFC 5 Chairperson and Farmer-Director Bernadette de los Santos; BFAR Director Nelson Bien; BFAR Farmer Director Imelda R. Belda; RTD Luz R. Marcelino; and Noel Fedalizo, USSC area manager in Bicol.

The distribution of financial assistance and fuel subsidy were among those government operations allowed by the COMELEC to continue and be exempted from the election ban. (Lovella P. Guarin/Photo by Eduardo Collantes, Jr.- RAFIS 5)