P5 billion budget increase for DAR to finance ‘mega farms project’ sought
MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers pushed for a P5 billion additional budget for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for its “mega farms project” which aims to specialize certain crops for particular areas in the country.
During the House deliberations on DAR’s proposed budget, Undersecretary David Erro explained that under the program, around 50 hectares of contiguous land will be developed for specialized crop production.
“For example, one area in Central Luzon, we are targeting around 50 hectares, that is the least. And we will infuse all the support services in that 50 hectares of land. We can develop rice production in that area by infusing high technology, tractors,” Erro told lawmakers.
Magsasaka Party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat expressed support for the program, saying that additional funding of P5 billion should be given to funding the project.
“So kailangan natin maibalik ito into consolidated farms para mabawi yung economies of scale at buhusan natin ng kumpletong tulong ang mga magsasaka. Ang programa namin ay mechanized, organized and subsidized farming,” Cabatbat said.
“Kaya naman sana mapondohan natin ito. Ako, I would move to accommodate the increase in the budget of DAR in the amount of P5 billion para ma-accommodate ang pilot project na ito,” the lawmaker added.
Later in the hearing, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte expressed similar sentiments to Cabatbat and likewise pushed for additional funding for DAR specifically for the project.
“Nagbigay sila sa amin ng proposal, yung megafarms. Ako, sang-ayon ako diyan. Yung concept nila sa megafarms is kino-consolidate ang mga farmland owned by the beneficiaries into 50 hectares para we will evolve them from subsistence farming to commercial farming,” Villafuerte said.
“So I would like to put on the record and I hope our colleagues will support, I will strongly push na mapondohan itong megafarming concept of at least P3 to P5 billion para matulungan ang mga farmer,” he added.
DAR Undersecretary for Finance Junjun Malsi, in the same hearing, said that the department originally asked the Department of Budget and Management P32.966 billion budget for next year, but they were only given a budget ceiling of P8.85 billion.
Thus, DAR ended up with a proposed budget of P8.851 billion, which is seven percent lower than its appropriations under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The budget is allocated for various programs and activities such as the Land Tenure Security Program (P3.429 billion), the Agrarian Justice Delivery Program (P897 million), and the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development and Sustainability Program (P1.51 billion), among others.
Meanwhile, DAR Undersecretary Luis Pangulayan explained that the department’s mandate is not only limited to distributing agricultural lands to landless farmers but also provision of support services.
“Henceforth, we are committed to providing to our program stakeholders, through this proposed budget, the provision of support services that aim to improve the productivity of the awarded agricultural lands and uplift the socio-economic conditions of agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Pangulayan said.
While the House committee has already terminated the department’s proposed budget, it can still be augmented during the deliberations on the plenary floor.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado earlier submitted the proposed budget to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano amounting to P4.506 trillion, which is 9.9 percent higher than the 2020 budget.
The proposed budget, Avisado said, focuses on government spending on improving the country’s healthcare systems, ensuring food security, creating more jobs by investing on labor-intensive projects, enabling a digital government and economy, and helping communities cope.
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