MANILA-- House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles on Thursday called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to deliver on its commitment to achieving its goal on rice sufficiency by 2018 with 50 percent of its proposed budget allocated to rice production.
During the House panel's briefing on the agency's proposed PHP60 billion budget for 2018, Nograles pointed out that DA Secretary Emmanuel PiAol declared that the Philippines would be rice sufficient by 2018, but an estimated 580,050 metric tons of imported rice are expected for the same year.
"How far have we gone in this bid to make us rice sufficient? We can't call ourselves rice sufficient until we stop importing rice from other countries," Nograles said.
"For this budget, I am hopeful that the DA would finally be able to realize its promise that we would be rice sufficient by 2018. Otherwise, let's stop creating false hopes just to make us look good in the eyes of the public," he added.
Nograles expressed optimism that the DA's National Rice Production Program (NRPP) could help the Philippines improve from being the world's third biggest rice importer.
During DA's budget briefing, PiAol said that while the DA is only allotting PHP11.793 billion for the NRPP, the entire allotment for programs that are designed to increase rice production actually represents 50 percent of his department's PHP54.03-billion budget.
"Our food producers, the Filipino farmers, and other agricultural workers, must be extended all possible financial and technical support, including training, to ensure and secure the nation's food supply. We must go beyond rhetoric and really work hard to make them happen," Nograles said.
The proposed PHP60-billion budget for 2018 is 17.6 percent higher than DA's 2017 budget amounting PHP45.947 billion. The 2018 DA budget level also represents 1.4 percent of the proposed national budget of P3.767-trillion.
The appropriations panel deferred the consideration of the DA's 2018 budget, as several lawmakers sought to augment the funding for the agency.
Several lawmakers argued that the PHP60-billion budget was not enough to bankroll the agency's major programs and it was much lower than the original request of PHP220 billion by PiAol.
Source: Philippine News Agency