Agri dep’t to propose P213-B budget for 2018

Posted on April 04, 2017

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday said it has prepared a budget proposal of P213 billion for 2018 to fund its projects, which will focus on greater food security and productivity.

The Department of Agriculture’s current budget is P46 billion. According to the Philippine Development Plan, the agency is targeting 2.5-3.5% output growth from this year until the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte term. -- AFP
“For 2018, our proposed budget requirement is P213 billion...that would actually be focused on greater food productivity,” Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a chance interview on the sidelines of a signing ceremony.

According to Mr. Piñol, the proposed budget will fund projects to expand the use of high-yield hybrid seed, more mechanization, the adoption of small-scale irrigation systems and easy-access financing for farmers.

He said he was due to present the proposed budget to President Rodrigo R. Duterte at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

“We have to walk the talk... I am relying on the promise of the President. In one cabinet meeting he told me, ‘you’ll get the funding support that you need,’” Mr. Piñol said.

Last month, DA said it will need a P400 billion budget over the next two years to boost farm production and finally achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2019.

The DA’s current budget is P46 billion. According to the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), the agency is targeting 2.5-3.5% output growth from this year until the end of Mr. Duterte’s term.

For this quarter, the DA is targeting 2% output growth, roughly in line with the full-year target.

In the same interview yesterday, Mr. Piñol likewise said he summoned all regional directors of DA and threatened them with termination should they underspend.

He said he was “dismayed” with the Agriculture department’s utilization and disbursement of its budget in the first quarter, but added that there were six regions in the country that spent 100% of their budget.

As a solution, Mr. Piñol said all regional office heads agreed to utilize more than 90% of their funds for the second quarter in order to convince the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to grant DA’s proposed appropriation for next year.

“We have to show DBM and our financial managers that we are using the funds,” Mr. Piñol said.

“In the second quarter, our agreement is that any regional director or any regional office that cannot breach the 90% fund utilization [target], I will relieve them. They will be taken out,” he added.

Economists have previously warned that the government must draw up a concrete plan on which to spend any funds, keeping in mind the sector’s capacity to absorb such funds or the ability of the administration to implement its plans.

Mr. Piñol sought a P70 billion budget for this year, with the bulk of the funds going into boosting rice output. However, DBM did not agree, citing the system’s low capacity to absorb a massive influx of new funds.

The DA’s efforts for rice include planting hybrid rice over one million hectares, which is expected to commence next year.

In addition, Mr. Piñol will target small irrigation projects and solar-powered irrigation systems to help attain rice self-sufficiency, which translates to about 21.67 million metric tons of palay output by 2019.

For this year, the DA targets 19 million metric ton output for palay, or unmilled rice, which if achieved, would be a record. -- Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral