MANILA Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol wants to use the funds of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as loans for agricultural activities nationwide.
"I'll formally propose the matter during the next Cabinet meeting," PiAol told reporters on the sidelines of the 1st Philippine Agriculture Trade and Investment Forum in Metro Manila on Thursday.
He said the government could lend the funds to 4Ps beneficiaries for their agricultural activities, so they could have a livelihood, become economically productive citizens, and help promote countryside development, instead of being mere recipients of state monetary support.
4Ps is a poverty alleviation initiative through which government provides conditional cash grants to the country's poorest of the poor
to help meet immediate needs of this sector. It was a flagship program of the previous administration.
Mainly managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the 4Ps funds are also used to promote health and education among poor children through health checkups, deworming, family development sessions, and enrollment in daycare, elementary, and secondary schools.
"We won't take 4Ps away from DSWD but just want to make this program's funds available for financing livelihood activities like food
production," PiAol stressed.
The government spends for the 4Ps about PHP70 billion yearly, even bigger than the agriculture department's budget, he noted.
The agriculture chief is confident about lending 4Ps funds for agriculture, encouraged by small farmers' and fishers' 96-percent track record in repaying their loans under the Department of Agriculture's nationwide Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program.
"That track record proves we can lend to people," he said.
PLEA is special credit facility that enables a small farmer or fisher to access, for agricultural production, non-collateralized loan of up
to PHP50,000, payable in two to 10 years at 6 percent interest per year.
Lending terms for 4Ps funds could be similar to PLEA, PiAol said.
He added he had mentioned his idea about 4Ps funds to colleagues during previous Cabinet meetings.
"Many in the Cabinet are supporting the idea," he said, without naming names.
PiAol said 4Ps beneficiaries could use the money in producing food, such as new ones identified by the DA as agriculture's "rising stars".
Among these are heirloom rice, calamansi, and cacao, the DA presented during the forum.
The forum aimed to give local farmers and fishers the opportunity to develop market linkages, generate investments, and earn more. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency