DAR, Department of Agricultre hit over ‘nonresponsive’ budget
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives appropriations committee suspended its hearing on the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) even after more than four hours because lawmakers felt that the DA was not responding to the needs of the country’s food producers.
Despite the impact of increased rice and pork imports, African swine flu, loss of fishing grounds and an exclusive coconut levy fund law, lawmakers found that the DA did not have enough funds for farmers and fisherfolk.
Moreover, the department did not even provide for cash assistance to farmers. This prompted Magsasaka Rep. Argel Cabatbat to say that Agriculture Secretary William Dar and his department was “sending the wrong message that agriculture and farmers are not important. We should support an increase because farmers deserve more.”
Dar explained that the DA proposed a budget of P231.763 billion, but budget managers approved only P91 billion, a cut of P140.75 billion.
Moreover, there was no provision for cash aid to the agricultural sector, with Dar saying he preferred to give aid in-kind. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also found the National Irrigation Administration’s allocation of P16.364 billion in “lump-sum funds,” which can be used for anything.
—JULIE M. AURELIO
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