DA asks Congress for additional P12-billion budget for next year


The Department of Agriculture (DA) is asking Congress for an additional P12-billion budget for 2022 to address global food and agricultural challenges in the “new world.”

In a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that the country is in need of a “lifeline” to sustain its productivity and meet its food security needs.

The agency initially proposed a total of P231.7 billion to support the implementation of its programs, activities and projects. But only P91 billion or 39.27 percent of the proposed amount was approved by the Department of Budget and Management.

“We are entering a ‘new norld’—the global scale of the ‘new normal’ as an offshoot of the Covid-19 pandemic—wherein every country in the world is coping with huge challenges. These include the lingering and mutating Covid-19 pandemic, increasing prices of petrol, fertilizers and feeds, climate change, population dynamics, urbanization and aging farmers, and preventing entry of trans-boundary animal and plant diseases,” said Dar.

These global challenges are expected to continue to impact adversely on food production, distribution, and consumption next year and beyond, Dar said, adding there is a need for bigger budgetary support for agriculture.

“We believe that there is an urgency for the government to support our farmers in dealing with these global and local challenges,” he said.

Part of the DA’s proposed P12 billion augmentation includes P8.9 billion for fertilizer subsidy; P2 billion for additional budget for corn program; and P1.1 billion for urban agriculture.

“The increase in prices of inorganic fertilizers due to the declining global supply has been alarming. Big countries and producers have stocked up most of the fertilizer supply to ensure their local requirements for crop production and food security,” he said.

“Other threats such as the rising oil prices, increasing prices of raw materials for feeds, and increasing cost of transport due to backlog in logistics transport service are adding to the lingering effect of the pandemic, which is still affecting the global supply chain,” he added.

Earlier, House Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairman Albay Rep. Joey  Salceda said the lower chamber is committed to helping increase the agriculture budget for 2022.

“One key element of the 2008 economic stimulus program under President [Gloria] Arroyo, which helped inoculate us from the worst impacts of the Great Recession, was agricultural support. I am convinced that growth and value-added in the agriculture sector will be a key driver of economic recovery,” Salceda added.

Salceda has said they are eyeing at least 10 percent additional allocation for DA.

Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri, for his part, has asked Congress to review and increase the budget of the DA for next year to ensure food security.

“We have experienced the heavy importation of rice and other meat items during this pandemic, let us not succumb to this problem again. We need to stand on our own two feet and strive for a food-secure Philippines. Food security should be our utmost priority hence the need to support this with a true and proper budget,” said Zubiri.

“As we all know the bicameral [conference committee for the 2022 budget] is just around the corner hence I believe that we can still do something to avert a shortage of food in the months to come. I implore both legislative bodies to review the budget of the DA and increase it for 2022,” he said.

Meanwhile, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Eric Yap vowed to scrutinize anew the proposed 2022 P5.024-trillion General Appropriations Act during the bicameral conference committee.

“We haven’t seen the committee report from the Senate so we couldn’t comment on their version just yet but we look forward to discuss and scrutinize the 2022 budget once again in the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House,” he said.

“While there may be conflicting provisions between the two, rest assured that our common end goal is to submit a budget that will sustain our Covid-19 response efforts while supporting our gradual transition to full recovery,” he added.

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