MANILA, Philippines — Camarines Sur Third District Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. is backing the agricultural plans of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., saying that he hopes the chief executive can solve the woes of the agriculture sector.
Bordado, part of the Liberal Party (LP) which is considered part of the opposition bloc, said that he was delighted that Marcos would focus on finding solutions to the agricultural problems.
Marcos is concurrently the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary, saying that he would take on the post in the meantime to reorganize the office and address food security issues.
“[The] President [also] said that he will financially equip farmers and fishers and allow them to be more competitive and competent. Consistent with his pronouncements in the past, Madam Speaker, the President said that he would prioritize Philippine Agriculture by pushing for the mechanization and modernization of the sector,” Bordado said during the deliberations on DA’s proposed budget on Tuesday at the House of Representatives.
“I actually commend the Department of Agriculture for coming up with programs and projects which will address the current crisis,” he added.
Bordado said, however, that any plans to resurrect Masagana 99, the rice productivity program of Marcos’ father and namesake, late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, should be tweaked.
The lawmaker noted that while Masagana 99’s strategies could be used to improve farmers’ socioeconomic conditions, there are changes that must be made to avoid mistakes that happened in the past.
“There were several factors which contributed to the decline of Masagana 99 and its eventual ‘death.’ So I do hope that this will not be repeated in this Masagana 150 Program, which should be using certified seeds, and the Masagana 200 Program, which will be using hybrid seeds,” he added.
Last May — after Marcos held an overwhelming lead over his elections opponents — there were clamors from different farmer groups about reinstating Masagana 99, amid claims that palay production doubled during that period.
Under the program, cheap loans were made available to farmers who would need financial support to increase harvest to 4,900 kilograms of rice per hectare. Farmers were also given access to improved technology in planting, price support for rice, and provision of low-cost fertilizer — all of which led to self-sufficiency in rice.
However, problems started creeping in after the government prodded the farmers to take in more loans, which led to many defaulting on their payments — which dealt a huge blow to the government’s funding.
In a Senate hearing last May 2020, then-Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez disputed the claim of Sen. Imee Marcos — the president’s sister — that Masagana 99 was effective.
The senator was part of a Senate discussion on the government’s COVID-19 response, wherein she asked Dominguez about the proposed P130 billion to P160 billion stimulus package for businesses and other sectors affected by the crisis.
At this point, she raised Masagana 99 as an example of a “very effective use of commercial banks, rural banks, and even cooperative banks”.
Dominguez, who served as agriculture secretary of the Marcos patriarch’s successor, former President Corazon Aquino, disagreed as he claimed to be the one behind “cleaning the mess” of Masagana 99.
He also clarified that the country never exported rice, contrary to what supporters of Marcos Sr.’s martial law regime insisted.
Despite the concerns over Masagana 99, Bordado said he hoped the DA, under President Marcos, could make breakthroughs in the agriculture sector.
“I do hope, Madam Speaker, Mr. Sponsor, with the president himself as the Acting Secretary of the Department of Agriculture we can make some breakthroughs in the coming days,” he added.