Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol dared critics of the farm sector’s rather tepid performance last year to prove that the agriculture sector contributed “zero,” or nothing, to the growth of the country’s economy.
“What if we try not to plant palay, catch fish, and harvest produce for one whole year to determine if the agriculture sector indeed did not have any contributions to the country’s economic advancement,” Piñol said in a speech before government officials and personnel at the launch of the Malasakit Help Desk on Thursday.
“Then if that is true, then the economy will continue to grow even if we do not plant rice, abaca, bananas—because that is the only way can prove that statement. My point is put your money where your mouth is. Give us the budget, then we will produce food for you,” Piñol added.
Piñol made the challenge following a statement of a Cabinet official, whom he did not name, that the agriculture sector had zero contribution to the Philippine economy last year.
Furthermore, he lamented that the cut in the DA’s proposed budget for both 2018 and 2019, which limited the implementation of the agency’s programs that are aimed to boost agricultural productivity.
Piñol noted that the Department of Agriculture (DA) was only given P56 billion last year when in fact it sought for a P220 billion funding. This year it was only given P49 billion, from the P122-billion allocation it had proposed.
“Let me ask you, how much is that? That’s less than 2 percent of the P3.77-trillion national budget,” he said. “In Turkey, they spend about 7 to 10 percent of their national budget for agriculture. That’s why they are exporting now.”
The agriculture chief also refuted statements implying that the DA has no plans or programs that aim to improve the Filipino farmers’ productivity.
“Don’t tell us that we do not have any programs because they are part of the planning process. In fact, they are part of the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council [NAFC], wherein we plan annually the agency’s budget before submitting our proposal to the DBM [Department of Budget and Management],” he said.
“The DBM and DOF [Department of Finance] are there—they are members of the NAFC. If we did not plan anything [for agriculture] then what did they attend?” he added.
Piñol also pointed out that some of the government policies are “contradicting,” particularly when it comes to the administration’s food security goal.
“I cannot actually find [neither] the rhyme [n]or rhythm in the continuous [barrage] of criticism[s] of the macro performance of agriculture and the unwillingness to provide support fund for agriculture,” he said.
“I don’t think some of our people in the government actually understand where the President is coming from. And I hope the last statement of the President…declaring that the Philippines will always be an agricultural country will send a clear signal to all that the President is expecting agriculture will get its fare share of funding allocation,” Piñol added.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno stated that the “farm sector had virtually zero contribution to economic growth last year.”
Furthermore, Diokno announced that the government’s economic managers are now “exploring measures to enhance farm productivity.”
Image credits: PNA