It’s been a financially stressful year for the Department of Agriculture (DA) so far, with the pandemic exhausting more than 70 percent of its annual budget for 2020.
The DA is also refocusing the remaining 30 percent of budget for more COVID-19 interventions while its request for additional funds have yet to be approved by Congress.
With four months remaining in the year, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA had to refocus its remaining budget for 2020 “to ensure that every Filipino family has enough food on their table” during this pandemic.
For this year, the DA was supposed to get only P64.7 billion in budgetary allocation. Since this is not enough with the country being badly hit by the pandemic, the DA had sought a P66-billion stimulus package from the national government.
So far, the agency only received additional P8.5 billion for its rice resiliency project (RRP) and the P3 billion for the Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF).
Of the requested P66 billion stimulus package, the DA may only get around P24 billion.
During a recent meeting of the economic development cluster (EDC) of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet, Dar presented the P17.5-billion refocused 2020 DA budget and the proposed P24-billion stimulus package for agriculture under the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or “Bayanihan 2″.
Dar said the P24-billion budget will be allocated for agri-fishery productivity enhancement projects (P8.7 billion), income enhancement projects (P8.8 billion), and social protection and amelioration projects (P6.5 billion).
“In particular, the additional fund will partly bankroll the Duterte administration’s Plant Plant Plant Program to ensure food security and continuous productivity of the agri-fishery sector,” DA Undersecretary Cheryl Natividad Caballero said during the virtual meeting.
“And part of it will be allotted for direct cash subsidies, zero-interest loans, and other forms of assistance to qualified agri-fishery enterprises, farmers and fisherfolk under the farmers’ registry or RSBSA, and farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs),” she added.
The Bayanihan 2 is now up for the final approval and signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
DA is also asking Congress for an annual budget of P280 billion for 2021, more than three times higher than its 2020 budget. Unfortunately, the agency is poised to get only P66.4 billion.
According to Magsasaka Representative Argel Joseph Cabatbat, this budget cut would not help the agency meet President Rodrigo Duterte’s call during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) to improve the country’s food production during the pandemic.
During his SONA, he also asked Congress to boost the funding for DA’s ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program to boost the productivity in the agriculture sector during the remaining years of his administration.
Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph