P2.5B Agri Stimulus Fund to Boost Exports Not Poverty Alleviation, Says Rice NGO; Details of Allocation Sought
Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Correspondent

Pinoy Express

Tuesday, 27 January 2009



Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) sought for transparency in the details of the economic stimulus fund allotted for agriculture to ensure that increase in the agency’s budget will not be squandered and address the potential impact of the existing global economic and financial crisis.


“We are pleased that the agriculture agency got more money this year after beefing up food production budget due to last year’s rice crisis. But we are as alarmed that the allotment ballooned at a time when the government is preparing for the 2010 elections,” said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, R1 lead convenor.


Congress approved the P1.4 trillion budget for 2009 that includes P10 billion economic stimulus fund. Agriculture got P48 billion for the agency and Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) on top of P2.5 billion from the economic stimulus fund.
Reports said the stimulus fund for agriculture was intended for production of tropical fruits, indigenous crops, expanded production of ruminants, dairy and poultry production including guarantee fund for livestock and poultry, sea cages for tilapia and bangus and seaweed production and acquisition and operation of motorized banca for cluster of fishing communities.


“Except for the provision of motorized banca for fishing communities, these programs are directed toward the export market which is clearly not a very good investment since the government has very limited resources at this point. We need concrete plans for the stimulus fund that will result to bigger and more sustainable returns aside from ensuring that the budget will not be used to finance preparations for the 2010 elections at the expense of the livelihood of the poor,” said Cantos.


Highly suspicious of a repeat of the agriculture fund scam during the 2004 elections, R1 plans to monitor government’s commitments and push for the judicious use of public funds for the agriculture sector.


The group said the Congress leadership should disclose the mechanisms for these funds especially because the funds were agreed in the bicameral conference when a lot of insertions and negotiations happen between and among the legislators only.








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