October 12, 2019
THE Department of Agriculture’s (DA) research-related programs and projects would benefit Filipino farmers and help further develop the country’s agriculture industry, its chief assured on Friday, days after a lawmaker criticized such initiatives.
In a briefing in Quezon City, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said his department considered the criticism as a challenge for it to ensure that whatever the results of these programs would “go to the farm.”
He, however, maintained that conducting research is still essential for the sector.
Dar also said the DA would continue implementing research-development programs in “very high priority areas” — which would include technology commercialization, upscaling and business incubation — as the government’s way to help farmers.
His statement came after Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the Senate agriculture committee, criticized on Wednesday the department’s allocation of P150 million in its proposed 2020 budget for research under its National Corn Program, arguing it should be used as direct assistance to farmers.
“Kung ako [ay isang] farmer, gusto ko na bigyan ako ng seeds [at] machinery, kaysa ‘yung mga kung anu-anong ‘yan. Kaunting-kaunti lang ang ibinibigay sa farmers, kaya ang ating mga farmers [ay patuloy na] naghihirap (If I am a farmer, I would want to be provided with seeds and machinery, not other things. Very little is given to our farmers, and that is why they continue to suffer),” Villar said during a Senate hearing on the department’s budget.
The legislator also questioned the DA’s decision to allot P218 million as a corn reserves fund and only P31 million for seed distribution. These reserves will be provided to farmers during typhoons and other calamities.
According to corn program coordinator Lorenzo Carangian, the department also plans to spend P445 million of its proposed P1.2-billion budget on technology demonstrations, training farmers and agricultural extension works, and on its advocacy campaign.
Villar urged the DA to revise its budget for the program by allocating at least half of its proposed budget to programs offering direct assistance to farmers.
“When I say 50 percent, that is what you will give to farmers, not research and training. ‘Yung mismong magagamit niya para mabuhay [sila] (That they could actually use so that they could live),” the senator said.
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