MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to revive agriculture, the proposed budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2017 is P3 billion less than its current funding.
For next year, DA has proposed a total budget of P50,553,834,000. This is 6% lower than 2016’s P53,974,476,000 and nearly 30% less the P71 billion budget that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol submitted to Malacañang.
“We presented a bigger budget, one which would include rice seeds and fertilizers for the rice farmers for the next 3 years because they suffered much from El Niño. That program is called RIGHT – it targets rice self sufficiency by 2019 had it been granted, but it was not. We have to work with whatever we have,” Piñol said during his agency’s budget briefing with members of the House of Representatives on Thursday, August 25.
Achieving rice self-sufficiency is on top of DA’s priorities with the primary objective of making food available to the people.
“[We have] coupled food production with poverty alleviation,” said the agriculture chief. “[We] focus on rice [because] climate change has made everything unpredictable… We cannot depend on importing rice because even Thailand and Cambodia have their own shares of calamities.”
The agency's budget proposal was slashed heavily because it was the ceiling set by the cabinet's Finance Team given the "absorption rate and expenditure efficacy" of DA.
"The DA under the previous administration was not able to absorb and spend all of its money. In fact, when I took over, about P7 billion was left unspent in the 2015 budget," Piñol explained in a Facebook post on Friday, August 26.
More for programs
Although DA has a lower budget proposal for next year, funding for most of the programs and attached agencies has increased, probably as a result of a big slash from the budget of the Office of the Secretary.
From a total budget of P40.3 billion in 2016, the office’s expenditure for 2017 is now limited to P35.2 billion – over P5 billion lower.
Funds to be allocated for attached agencies and subsidy for corporations are significantly higher than this year.
Of the 7 attached agencies of the DA, 6 see an increase in the budget proposal. Only the Philippine Carabao Center’s funds were reduced by P50.86 million. The Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) had the biggest budget increase: more than P768 million from 2016.
ACPC oversees the policies and programs that will support the DA’s priorities. Among Piñol’s goals is to make credit easily accessible to poor farmers.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation also had a steep increase among the DA’s attached corporations. From P1.6 billion in 2016, the agency now has a proposed budget of P2.5 billion.
PCIC is a public firm that protects farmers from damage or loss of non-crop agricultural assets, such as machinery, equipment and transport facilities.
DA has also included the provision for post-harvest facilities in its list of strategies to increase competitiveness.
The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, which handles agricultural modernization, also has a significantly higher budget, with P308.6 million from P237.8 million in 2016.
Meanwhile, 7 out of 8 program items listed in the department’s budget briefer saw an increase in their proposed budget. These includes the programs that aim to boost production for rice, livestock, corn, high-valued crops, organic produce, among others.
“We will make food available to the people. We will focus on rice, corn, chicken, meat, milk and dairy products, fish and marine products, and fruits,” Piñol said during Thursday’s briefing.
“We [also] want to increase [the] income of farmers [by focusing] on generating high-valued crops, such as banana, coconut, pineapple, cacao, coffee, oil palm, abaca, fish and marine products, seaweeds, pork, spices, essential oils, tropical fruits, halal chicken, and organic vegetables,” he said. – Rappler.com