THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it hopes to phase out farm subsidies by 2021, replacing them with easy-access credit.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters after the first Philippine Agriculture and Trade Investment Forum on Thursday that the move to financing instead of subsidies will save the government money.
“The subsidy program is a political decision and bleeds the government dry every year. For production support for all sections, it reaches P30 to P40 billion annually and all of that money is just given away without chance of recovery,” Mr. Piñol said.
“The subsidy program is the reason why all our economic managers are stingy when it comes to giving money to agriculture because they feel that we’re just throwing money away every year.”
Mr. Piñol expressed confidence in easy-access credit after Production Loan Easy Access program under the Agricultural Credit Policy Council recorded a 96% repayment rate.
“Next year we have a P4-billion [budget for credit]. Plus, in tier two, I’m asking for P10 billion from Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and the good thing is that the DBM (Department of Budget Management) likes the idea,” he added.
“They love the idea of the DA being able to recover its investment and plow it back into the program again next year.”
Mr. Piñol also said that he will be making a formal proposal at the next Cabinet meeting, and will seek to tap the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a conditional cash transfer scheme, as another form of agriculture-related financing.
As the 4Ps have a budget of P70 billion, Mr. Piñol said the program can be deployed for livelihood activities to increase further food productivity.
Mr. Piñol said he does not propose that the 4Ps be taken away from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Instead of it being a cash dole out, it will come out as a livelihood fund assistance,” he added, noting that this approach respects the dignity of recipients. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato