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Palace assures bigger budget for DA

AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said Malacañang has assured that it is willing to give the Department of Agriculture (DA) extra funding that it needs in order to enhance farmers’ output and in turn, increase the country’s food productivity.

During a full Cabinet meeting Monday evening, he said, President Rodrigo Duterte asked him to submit a budget proposal “10 times bigger” than what it has now.

“Tell me how much you need and I will ask Sonny (Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez) to give you the money,” the President told Piñol during the Cabinet meeting which lasted until 12 midnight, which the DA chief divulged in his Facebook page.

According to Piñol, the President emphasized the need for bigger support to agriculture, noting that the country’s population is increasing by about two million every year.

“Make use of every available area to grow food. You know how to do that,” he quoted President Duterte.

The President also said that there should be greater focus on agricultural infrastructure and asked the concerned departments to revisit the Roll-On, Roll-Off Program (RoRo) of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The RoRo Program involved the establishment of ports which were inter-connected by a virtual sea highway using fast crafts and ferry.

The President also asked DA to focus on the farm-to-market food chain to ensure that farmers and fishermen are able to sell their produce at a fair price.

In 2018, the National Food and Agricultural Council (NFAC) endorsed a budget of over PHP120 billion but the DA only got PHP49 billion which, added to the budget of newly transferred agencies like the National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority, totaled PHP86 billion.

The PHP86 billion includes the unprogrammed funds of PHP10 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), and the PHP10 billion from the Coco Levy Fund.

Piñol said the President’s announcement of greater budgetary support to agriculture came just in time as the DA starts Tuesday (March 5) its three-day Internal Budget Hearing (IBH) at the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) compound in Quezon City wherein all regional offices, bureaus and attached agencies will be asked to submit their budget proposals for the year 2020.

With the President’s major policy pronouncement last night, Piñol said the DA will adjust its budgetary proposals with corresponding targets to be achieved. (Lilybeth Ison)

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