THE multibillion-peso allocation for a program to buy food directly from farmers and fisherfolk remains on hold because the guidelines governing the purchases have not been completed, a Senator said Thursday.

Senator Francis Pancratius N. Pangilinan noted the delay of the guidelines means the intended beneficiaries the Sagip Saka Act of 2019 cannot access funds worth P41 billion from the 2021 budget.

“The economy will move in the countryside if this P41 billion is spent to buy the harvest and catch from our farmers and fisherfolk,” he said in a statement, adding that direct purchasing would cut out middlemen and bolster their incomes during the pandemic.

He said the delay stems from the Government Procurement Policy Board’s (GPPB) failure to complete the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the law.

“The year is about to end, and there’s still no IRR from GPPB. There is money reserved for the direct purchase by national agencies for farmers but it’s left hanging,” he said.

The GPPB needs to review and amend its negotiated procurement guidelines to implement the law, which was signed in October 2019.

At the Wednesday finance committee hearing on funding for the budget department, Mr. Pangilinan brought up the delay in implementing Sagip Saka. “This is supposed to be for 2021 purchases, and 2021 is ending.”

“There seems to be no sense of urgency. I hope that this is not deliberate,” he added.

In August, the GPPB said its target for releasing the draft guidelines was September, but the draft was submitted to the members of the board in October.

The GPBB on Wednesday said that it will ask its members to expedite their comments on the draft.

The committee urged the GPBB to approve the guidelines before the budget department’s proposed budget moves to the plenary in November.

“When I talked to our farmers, they were not asking for a donation,” said Mr. Pangilinan. “They are only asking for a little help to balance against imported goods. This P41 billion may be the stimulus for our agricultural sector. Let’s hasten this,” Mr. Pangilinan said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan