‘Infrastructure got big chunk of P431-billion budget for agriculture’

Farm infrastructure, including irrigation facilities, got the lion’s share of the agriculture sector’s total budget of P431 billion from 2011 to 2016, according to the former chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Former Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said 67 percent of the budget given to the sector was spent to construct irrigation facilities, farm-to-market roads, trading centers and community fish landings.

“Case in point, the P431-billion agriculture budget from 2011 to 2016 was P45 billion more than the budget from 1975 to 2010,” Alcala said in a report, titled Philippine Agriculture Report Card 2010 to 2016.

Through increased budget support from the national government, Alcala said Philippine agriculture was able to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of productivity and competitiveness.

For one, he said unmilled rice production from 2012 to 2015 exceeded 18 million metric tons (MMT) yearly, a level which was sustained even with the devastation of El Niño in 2015.

“The country was transformed from biggest rice importer to world’s fastest-growing rice producer, as rice sufficiency level went up from 81 percent in 2010 to 97 percent in 2013,” he said.

Alcala added the country was able to achieve self-sufficiency in corn, which translated to savings on feed imports.

He also said the government prioritized efforts to improve fishery law enforcement and conservation.

The implementation of Executive Order 15 and Republic Act 10654, which aim to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, resulted in improved production and sustainability of stocks.

“The same efforts resulted to the lifting of the yellow-card warning from the European Union opening lucrative business opportunities for the Philippine fishing sector,” the report read.

The Office Internationale des Epizooties has also recognized the Philippines as a country free from avian influenza, foot-and-mouth disease without vaccination, pestes des petits ruminants and, recently, African horse sickness.

Alcala also said the enactment of the Food Safety Act in 2013 strengthened regulatory measures to ensure food safety and to protect both producers and consumers.

The DA, through the Philippine Rural Development Project, also engaged 66 provincial local government units, veering away from top-down approach on supporting commodity programs.

The agency established registry systems for fishers and fishing vessels, to ensure access to subsidized insurance through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC). The PCIC also provided expanded crop-insurance coverage to farmers.

Alcala said a total of P2.01 billion was released to 10,555 farmers from 2012 to 2015 under the Sikat Saka Program of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council.

“The last six years took the Philippine agriculture to greater heights amid calamities and natural disasters caused by El Niño and typhoons,” the report read.

“In the years to come, the DA hopes to continue providing efficient service through effective projects in farming and fishing communities, as it empowers farmers and fishers to attain a life of dignity and pride,” it added.


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