The Department of Agriculture (DA) has P1 billion in Quick Response Funds (QRF) under this year's Calamity Fund that it can tap to stop the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF), Sen. Sonny Angara said today.
Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said government should now "break the glass of this emergency fund" and use it to implement the DA's containment protocol against a disease which threatens a key food source that also adds P280 billion to the economy annually.
"This ASF is by all accounts a calamity. It may not have the dramatic footage that typhoons create, but in terms of damage to livelihood, and the households affected, it is just as damaging," Angara said.
Angara said stopping the spread of ASF must be done now before it engulfs the entire industry and endanger the jobs of tens of thousands of people.
"If agriculture disasters like pests, droughts and ASF are rated, the latter has the potential of becoming a high-category calamity, " Angara said.
Angara said funding for anti-ASF measures can be sourced from the P20 billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, more commonly known as the Calamity Fund, in the General Appropriations Act for 2020.
Under this fund, the DA is assigned P1 billion in QRF, "which by their nature, should have been forward-deployed to these agencies."
It was only on September 10 that the Department of Budget and Managed released P82.5 million to the DA to carry out measures to "arrest and abate" the spread of ASF.
Angara noted that 35 percent of the amount or P32 million will be spent to boost security screening measures at the international airports.
Another P28 million will go to laboratory testing of meat and meat products.
"It is good that we're strengthening our quarantine curtains, but what we lack are funds to fight ASF on the ground lalo na ngayon na fully mobilized na ang mga local governments. In the future, ito siguro ang mangangailangan ng pondo," he said.
"But if the ASF epidemic will worsen, and will down many farms, and some financial aid for those stricken is needed, then this can be included in the 2020 budget. Eh yan naman kasi will take effect less than 100 days from now," Angara said.
Another "point of interest" that the ASF outbreak has generated that both Congress and the executive branch should look into is "how to strengthen our food biosecurity and food safety measures."
"Kung kailangan ma-pondohan ang ganyang concern sa national budget, bukas ang Senado sa anumang suggestion from our friends in the DA," Angara said.
Source: Senate of the Philippines