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DA to fix voucher system flaws to maximize benefits to farmers, boost productivity

The voucher system under the National Rice Program is currently under review and set for major changes in the coming months.

This was disclosed by Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. as he cited the need to fix the voucher system introduced by the National Rice Program to ensure government funds are fully utilized, farmers get full benefits, and rice production is substantially increased.

Under the program, the DA distributes vouchers to farmer beneficiaries that could be exchanged for farm inputs, including fertilizers and rice seeds at DA-accredited merchants.

The DA chief said many merchants refuse to honor vouchers because they haven’t been paid, with total payables reaching P892 million–some dating as far back as 2021.

The bulk of the arrears amounting to P849M are payables from the recently concluded 2023-2024 Dry Season implementation. Payment delays are often due to incomplete documentary requirements.

The DA, in partnership with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), is pushing for new processes for settling accounts with accredited merchants. Improved rice seeds and the right amount of fertilizers, along with sufficient irrigation, contribute significantly to raising rice yields.

The DA also issued Memorandum Order 8, Series of 2024 to provide clearer guidelines in the implementation of programs and projects as indicated in the Special Provisions under the 2024 General Appropriations Act.

Sec. Tiu Laurel noted that the current voucher system has not addressed certain issues at the level of priority sectors and end users.

It is a major channel for DA’s distribution of the P22.9 billion budget this year for farm inputs, including hybrid rice seeds, organic and inorganic fertilizers as well as funds for the use of drone technology in rice cultivation.

Nearly P10 billion in inputs and assistance will be delivered to farmers via the voucher system. Other modes allowed under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) this year includes the use of intervention monitoring cards (IMC)—e-wallets used for distributing P5,000 assistance to farmers under the Rice Tariffication Law–and direct distribution of inputs that DA regional offices are