SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives on Tuesday terminated its plenary sponsorship and debate on the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget of P54.2 billion for next year which will be used mainly to achieve greater food security and productivity.
The DA's proposed budget is 32.5 percent more than this year’s appropriation of P45.2 billion.
During the plenary budget deliberation, Rep. Cecilia Leonila Chavez (Party-list, Butil) reiterated the DA programs that need to be addressed with urgency as she called for more support for farmers.
Chavez said the DA’s budget for certain programs are very critical for agriculture productivity and improvement of the welfare of farmers. She said the people’s taxes should be properly allocated to these programs to give meaning to social justice.
“The DA must work closely with the farmers and fisher folk. Consultation with their associations and cooperatives down to the grassroots level must be in place in the implementation of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF),”said Chavez.
Chavez asked DA officials to include party-list groups, which are directly representing the farmers sector, as observers in the meetings and consultations with the ACEF committee.
Furthermore, Chavez said that ACEF must be tackled in the Congressional Oversight Committee On Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization to further ensure that the DA funds will trickle-down to the farmers.
Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar (Party list, PBA), sponsor of the DA budget proposal, assured that the party-list groups directly representing the farmers sectors will be invited to be part of the ACEF committee. He also assured the DA would take Chavez’s suggestions very seriously.
Likewise, Chavez said that a congressional inquiry is imperative to look into the technology of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), especially on agricultural machinery, small irrigation and national rice programs.
“I look forward to a thorough review of these programs in cooperation with the DA,” said Chavez.
Sambar said the DA is closely coordinating and cooperating not only with the DOST, but with the various stakeholders including the state universities and colleges (SUCs), local suppliers and local fabricators to ensure that the programs of DA comply with the necessary standards.
Rep. Toby Tiangco (Lone District, Navotas City) clarified that the mandate of the DA is to ensure the future protein needs of the country will be met.
Tiangco queried how big is the Philippine Rise in terms of area.
Sambar said that Benham Rise, which was renamed Philippine Rise, has about 25 million hectares of aquatic resources.
Sambar said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has many proposals on how to develop and take advantage of the resources in the Philippine Rise.
“Unfortunately, none of these were approved during the budget deliberation between the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and DA,” said Sambar.
He enumerated some of the proposals of BFAR which need a budget of P6.261 billion: one unit of helicopter; four units of ship based UAV; BFAR off-shore station; and one unit of MCS vessel.
Out of the P6.261 billion, P841.6 million will fund the immediate need of DA to develop and secure the Philippine Rise. These include the purchase of a 1,500-tonnage ship based UAV worth P816.6 million; and putting up a BFAR off-shore station amounting to P24 million.
“If just one foreign vessel stays there at bantayan nila ang Philippine Rise, mahihirapan na po tayong paalisin pa sila. Maganda po ang ginawa ni Secretary Pinol at nakita niya ang Philippine Rise,” said Tiangco.
Being the vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, Tiangco requested the DA to initiate realignment from other departments of less than P1 billion to secure the Philippine Rise.
“Baka pwede po natin tulungan ang DA na makuha na ang P900 million. That is why I stood up to manifest my support for the DA and its proposal to meet the protein needs of our people ,and the best source is the Philippine Rise,” said Tiangco.
Last May, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Benham Rise a Protected Food Supply Exclusive Zone and he also agreed to rename Benham Rise as Philippine Rise, according to Piñol.
Piñol suggested to the President that rather than focus on searching for mining or oil activities (in the Philippine Rise), the government should protect it because the DA Secretary sees a P25-billion (food supply) potential there. / EAG