Senate approves P85.6-billion budget for agriculture
The Senate in a plenary session approved the proposed P85.58-billion budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA), including those of its bureaus, and attached agencies and corporations.
Senator Cynthia Villar sponsored and defended virtually the proposed DA budget and that of the National Irrigation Administration (at P31.56 B) before her colleagues, who were present physically and virtually at the Senate plenary hall, on November 20, 2020.
“I cannot overemphasize the need for all of us to support the agriculture sector and promote rural development to ensure nutritious and affordable food for our people, and increase the incomes of our farmers and fisherfolk,” said Senator Villar.
She highlighted that the agri-fishery sector was the only economic sub-sector that posted positive growth, as the country plunged into recession amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and prior to the onslaught of the successive typhoons that hit Luzon in October and November.
“This attests to Secretary Dar’s leadership in steering the department through this crisis,” noted Senator Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food.
However, she pointed out that the DA must focus on addressing poverty in rural areas which remains high, that is compounded by the challenges of climate change, as well as lack of technology and mechanization.
“We need to come up with creative and innovative solutions in improving the situation and make better the lives of farmers and fisherfolk. Our rural and agriculture development should be inclusive, resilient, and sustainable in all sectors of agriculture—in crops, livestock, poultry, fisheries, high-value crops, and coconut,” she said.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who personally appeared along with several top DA officials, thanked the legislators for their hard work in reviewing and deliberating on the agency’s 2021 budget proposal.
“On behalf of the DA family, I sincerely thank our Senators, especially our main sponsor, Senator Villar, for this favorable action on our proposed 2021 budget that will sustain the implementation of our umbrella Plant, Plant, Plant program and continued modernization and industrialization of Philippine agriculture,” secretary Dar said.
“We need their continued guidance and budgetary support, which we hope will be augmented in the years to come, to boost the productivity of our farm and fishery resources, increase the incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, achieve global competitiveness, and ensure greater sustainability and resilience from natural disasters, climate change impacts, and global pandemics,” he added.
Almost three-fourths or P60.9 B of the 2021 DA proposed budget is allocated to the Office of the Secretary, which includes funding for seven commodity banner programs, bureaus, central and regional field offices, as well as locally-funded and foreign-assisted projects.
The proposed respective budget for the banner programs follows:
- Rice – P15.5 B;
- Corn – P1.5 B;
- High-value crops – P1.6 B;
- Livestock – P1.17 B;
- Fisheries, P3.12 B;
- Organic agriculture – P665 million (M); and
- Halal – P23.9 M.
During the deliberations, the Senate suspended its plenary rules to allow Secretary Dar, on behalf of Senator Villar, to answer the queries of Senator Richard Gordon on the Department’s planned assistance for the typhoon-affected farmers in Cagayan Valley and Bicol regions.
The DA chief assured Senator Gordon that the DA will immediately conduct field validation to ascertain the extent of damage in the most typhoon-ravaged provinces.
He said the DA regional offices will also determine the agronomic requirements of the flooded areas and help farmers and fishers recover and make their farms and fishing grounds productive again.
The proposed DA budget will undergo final scrutiny as part of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for the second, third, and final reading at the Senate.
After the Senate’s formal approval of the budget, select members of both legislative houses will convene as a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differing or conflicting provisions to produce a unified bill or the draft General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021.
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