Lawmakers want bigger budget for DA

MANILA-- The House appropriations committee on Wednesday deferred the consideration of the PHP60-billion budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2018 as several lawmakers sought to augment the funding for the agency.

During the congressional hearing on the DA's proposed 2018 budget, 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 DA Secretary Emmanuel PiAol.

ANAC-IP Partylist Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food, moved to defer the consideration of the DA's budget until necessary adjustments have been made.

"With the indulgence of the honorable Secretary, I am moving that we defer consideration of the DA budget," Panganiban said.

Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri seconded Panganiban's motion.

A TEACHER Partylist Rep. Julieta Cortuna cited the need for a proper feasibility study to support the budget request of the Agriculture department and prove that it could deliver improved services and programs to its constituents.

"It has to be supported with the right feasibility studies that if you provide us with this budget, this is what we can deliver," Cortuna said.

Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin expressed shock at the budget allocation for the agency next year, noting that Congress should allocate more for the department to boost the agriculture industry.

North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, for his part, proposed to give a PHP30-billion increase to the agency's budget for next year.

In an ambush interview after the hearing, PiAol stressed the need to give the DA a much higher budget for next year to sustain the department's priority programs such as the Easy Access Financing and the construction of farm-to-market roads (FMR).

"We actually proposed PHP50 billion for easy access financing because we are computing a maximum loan amount of PHP50,000 for farm and fisher families and we are estimating a million families," PiAol said.

PiAol noted that there is a 13,000-kilometer backlog in constructing FMRs, and the proposed PHP6-billion allocation for this endeavor every year will only lead to the completion of around 3,000 kilometers until 2022.

PiAol said he could settle for three-fourths of the original proposal of PHP220-billion, or around PHP165 billion.

"Mga three-fourths of that will be very very good for us because we need to sustain our commitment on the agricultural sector. We are growing over 5 percent so kung hindi natin ma-sustain 'yan babagsak 'yan and alam niyo naman na (ang) agriculture kailangan nito ng financing, PiAol said.

Source: Philippine News Agency