AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Emmanuel F. Piñol said on Wednesday that key legislators have signalled their intention to raise the Department of Agriculture’s 2019 budget by about P20 billion, amid concern in the House about the adequacy of its proposed budget of P55 billion.
At a briefing after the first day of the Municipal and City Cluster-Wide Food Security Summits held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, Mr. Piñol said: “The good news is last night, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo mentioned at the budget hearing that (legislators) are not happy with the P55 billion DA budget and they are working for an increase of the budget.”
Mr. Piñol added that Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda (Albay 2nd District) also told him of the House’s intent to increase the DA’s budget as a means of stabilizing food prices.
He said Mr. Salceda “told me that they are expecting additional budget for the DA because they are not happy with the P55 billion especially (because) food prices (are an) indicator of economic stability.”
“They mentioned a P20 billion” budget increase, Mr. Piñol said, adding that funds worth P10 billion raised from rice tariffs may be included.
Pending rice tariffication legislation aims to allow private firms to import rice more freely from Southeast Asian trading partners, but at a 35% tariff, which will help fund measures to make the rice industry more competitive.
Mr. Piñol added that the food security summits will require mayors nationwide to present their respective food security plans, which will help the DA estimate spending levels to increase productivity and to determine which parts of the country have deficits n specific commodities.
The schedule of the summits is as follows: Regions 1, 2, 3 and CAR (Oct. 2-3); Regions 4A, 4B, and 5 (Oct. 3-4); Regions 6, 7 and 8 (Oct. 8-9); and Regions 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and ARMM (Oct. 4-5).
Mr. Piñol also committed to help fund 1 kilometer of farm-to-market roads for each municipality participating in the summits. The first day of the first summit was attended by 96 mayors. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio