RCEF disbursement at P1.52 billion as of February–DA

DISBURSEMENTS from a fund specifically allocated to support farmers nationwide was below 50 percent as of February, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Based on a spending update of the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), the DA said the total disbursement from the fund has reached P1.52 billion.

Data showed that out of the P10 billion, P4.5 billion has been obligated. This was largely due to the P5 billion allocated for mechanization has not been obligated.

“(The) 2019 SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) for Mechanization component lapsed,” DA said.

DA said, however, that the government is currently reviewing, finalizing and working toward the approval of 944 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) for Year 1 funding worth P3 billion.

The DA also said there is ongoing identification, evaluation and field validation of potential FCA recipients for Year 2 funding.

Meanwhile, apart from mechanization, around P373 million for seeds and P120.97 million for extension services have also not been obligated.

In terms of seeds, of the total allocation of P3 billion, around P2.627 billion, or 87.58, percent has been obligated.

Disbursements are lower at P552.3 million, or 18.41 percent, of the obligated amount. The DA said the amount has allowed it to distribute 1.244 million 20-kilo bags of seeds in 709 municipalities nationwide.

The DA said the planted area covered 609,197 hectares and 489,307 beneficiaries. The government also established 41 technology demonstration sides.

“Out of the contracted seed supply of 2.09 million bags, 1.812 million bags have passed the quality standards,” the DA said.

“(Around) 236 municipalities waived their allocation for…2020 due to early planting schedule, or [they’ve] already [been] covered by the rice program,” it added.

In terms of extension services, out of the P1 billion allocation, around P879.029 million or 87.9 percent has been obligated. Of the obligated amount, around P327.6 million or 37.27 percent has been disbursed.

DA data showed the government has provided services to 295 farm schools and completed training for 7 batches of specialists, 76 batches of trainers, and 16 batches of farmers.

The government has also produced and distributed 289,434 IEC materials; conducted 245 technical briefings; and granted 14,595 scholarships.

Meanwhile, in terms of credit, the P1 billion allocation has been fully obligated. The LandBank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) obligated P500 million each.

For LandBank, around P358.25 million, or 71.65 percent of the P500 million allocation, has been disbursed. DA said DBP has disbursed P283.5 million or 56.7 percent of the P500 million obligation.

Last week, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Assistant Secretary for Regional Development Mercedita A. Sombilla told BusinessMirror the procurement of machines and accreditation of cooperatives are facing delays due to the lack of necessary manpower and the delay in the release of RCEF.

Sombilla said with RCEF funds being made available only toward the end of 2019, it was difficult to undertake the procurement of machines.

The DA, she added, also encountered delays in the accreditation of cooperatives which is needed to ensure that they had the “economies of scale” needed in using the machines.

However, Sombilla said given Philmech’s initial thrust was for research, the agency needed an additional team of 170 to 180 personnel to do the work.

Sombilla said Philmech was granted an additional manpower of around 60. She said that while this is not yet half of what Philmech needs, this is enough to begin the implementation of activities.

She said moving forward, the PSC will determine how to get all the RCEF funds to ensure that the P10 billion funds will be used in the first semester.

Image Credits: Bernard Testa

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