DA urged to give more funds to top farm producers
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to allocate more funds to provinces that are top producers of farm products to further increase their production.
Villafuerte said while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has made good on his promise to prioritize agricultural modernization and productivity DA officials “appear clueless on how to spend the money next year as a surefire way to boost farm output, stabilize domestic supplies and pull down the cost of rice and other essential foodstuffs in the long run.”
The solon said agriculture officials “appeared at a loss” during the deliberation of the proposed P163.75 billion budget of DA for next year. DA’s budget for next year is 39.62% higher than this year’s P117.29 billion budget.
“But the saying that ‘the devil is in the details’ seems to apply in the case of the President’s most senior aides, as the discussions on the DA’s budgetary allotments for ostensibly priority areas indicate that they have not factored in…higher budgetary allotments for selected provinces as a form of incentive or reward for being top producers and to enable them to step up programs that would allow them to get bigger harvests or produce more meat, fish, vegetables and other farm goods,” Villafuerte added.
Villafuerte seems unsatisfied with the answer of DA Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa during the budget deliberation on whether the agency has allocated enough funds to top-producing provinces that would enable them to spend more on programs to further increase their agricultural outputs.
“How can you say that the DA budget was prepared according to the President’s priority concerns when the actual NEP allocations do not reflect such priorities?” asked Villafuerte, president of the National Unity Party, the second largest political party in Congress.
He added, “When I asked earlier kung ano ang guidelines nila in the formulation, walang masagot, walang blueprint.”
Villafuerte then urged the DA to craft a formula to commensurately allocate its budget.
“Siguro kung meron kayong budget preparation for, say P13 billion, may I suggest 25% i-allocate ninyo sa mga growers of rice, corn and coconut, 25% doon sa least developed producers, and then 50% discretion po ng Secretary. At least may formula, hindi po yung every budget season wala naman tayong formula. Sana may formula kasi we need rice,” he pointed out.
Camarines Sur is the no. 6 rice producer in the country despite lacking an irrigation system and most of the farms in the province are rain-fed only.
“Kung ang NIA tutulungan ang water system namin na rainfed karamihan baka siguro mag number one or two kami,” the solon pointed out.
In the same hearing, Villafuerte asked NIA Administrator Benny Antiporda about his agency’s program or project in the province. Antiporda said NIA has allocated P40.9 million for the Paculago Irrigation Project in Ragay town.
Villafuerte also asked Antiporda about his call to conduct a feasibility study in his province for the construction of a dam that could be used for irrigation.
“We addressed this issue already wherein we are recalling all feasibility studies which are long lingering with the consultancy firms, and after investigation, cases will be filed against them. I have given the orders already on this. But again going back to Bicol, lahat po ngayon ay i-implement po namin,” Antiporda said.
Antiporda said that based on the master plan, the country needs to irrigate about 1.1 million hectares of land which will cost about P800 billion.