House opposition member, group seek more funds for agri office


By Kathrina Alvarez


Sept. 10, 2011


A MEMBER of the House opposition bloc and a non-government
organization are proposing to increase funds allotted for the
Department of Agriculture (DA) to make the country self-sufficient in
supplying grains to its people.

Opposition lawmaker Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay said that
supporting the needs of the agricultural sector would be a "sound
investment" since the country has "very capable farmers and
agriculture experts that will help the steer the industry into new

"The government needs to first understand the importance of the
industry and commit to it by providing ample budget to the Department
of Agriculture so that reforms and developments may be instituted,"
she said, adding the DA needs at least P50 to P60 billion annually to
support its various development programs throughout the country.

Magsaysay's calls were supported by the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1).

However, such budget increases should include "judiciously looking at
the agriculture programs that will give the farmers maximum benefits
and sustain their productivity," the group said in a statement.

"Bearing in mind the increase in budget accorded to the agriculture
sector for the past years and the extent of which these were allegedly
squandered by the previous administration, we believe Congress needs
to be more cautious in putting pesos and centavos to budget items that
are easily identified as the key to agriculture development,” Jessica
Reyes-Cantos, R1 Lead Convenor, said in a statement.

The Agriculture department will receive P61.7 billion under the
proposed national budget for 2012.
Some P4 billion of the amount will be allotted to the National Food
Authority, which the group said should be increased to P14 Billion.

The increased amounts should be used to buy five percent of local
palay production, the group said, adding that an additional P1 billion
should be used to improve the NFA's facilities.

The remaining budget should be allotted to achieve a 10 percent
procurement level will come from the liquidation of NFA’s current rice

Magsaysay said it is saddening that the Philippines, an agricultural
country, has resorted to importing grains from its Asian neighbors for
the past years.

“They are already miles ahead of us in terms of agricultural
development,” she stressed.

Magsaysay made this remark after the consistent high prices of grain
in the world market due to low supply fears attributed to bad

The lawmaker said if we had ample supply of grain to feed Filipinos,
the country would not be affected by any global price increases or
inflation on a global scale. If the agriculture sector would reach its
full potential, the Philippines could well be exporting grain instead
of importing them.

"If we scrimp on agriculture, what will be the use of all the studies
and innovations the country is embarking on? With insufficient funds,
even to irrigate the lands in the country, how will we have good
harvest?" she pointed out.

Meanwhile, R1 proposed to cut the irrigation budget to P20 Billion
until such time that an audit of the last three years (2009-2011) in
irrigation budget is made available.

"Cuts should be made mostly in the Locally Funded Projects as foreign
assisted projects were better implemented based on assessment studies
due to stricter project monitoring," the non-government organization
said in its position paper submitted to the House Committee on
Appropriations and to Senate Committee on Finance.

To further improve the country's rice self-sufficiency, the group said
the original DA budget proposal for Rice Program be maintained at P10
billion, if not increased "but do some realignments to give higher
budget for extension services for farming systems (i.e. Palayamanan,
Sustainable Agriculture, climate resilient technologies, etc)."

Besides judiciously increasing DA allotments, the group is asking the
government to also increase the insurance coverage of Philippine Crop
Insurance Corporation (PCIC) to at least 10 percent of crop
production, raise the budget for feedstock laboratory to P100 million
and diagnostic services to P100 million, create a mechanism for
increased private, civil society monitoring, audit, and assessment of
major agriculture programs, and increase seed varieties for
participatory seed selection because diversification of genetic
materials should include farmers’ varieties.

These form part of the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) proposals
by Social Watch Philippines and submitted to Congress during the
deliberation of the 2012 budget. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)









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