PhilMech seeks P5.6-billion budget for 2021 to fund farm mechanization

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rice palay harvest

THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) told Congress on Monday that it is proposing a P5.6-billion budget for next year to support mechanization programs under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

In a presentation to the House Committee on the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle, PhilMech Executive Director Baldwin G. Jallorina said that the P5.6 billion includes allocations for programs under RCEF (P5.1 billion), personnel services (P133 million), overhead (P87 million) and research (P302 million).

RCEF is designed to help farmers better compete with imported rice and is funded with P10 billion per year in tariffs collected from rice imports.

RCEF also includes programs for seed development, propagation and promotion; credit assistance to farmers and cooperatives; and farmer training.

Asked by House Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor B. Savellano if PhilMech has programs to repair machinery, Mr. Jallorina replied, “Right now the RCEF mechanization program gives away brand new equipment but no provisions for repair.”

Agriculture Undersecretary Rodolfo V. Vicerra said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has ordered regional offices to monitor farm machinery that can be repaired.

“In the last two weeks kasama po ito sa mga priority na in-order po ni Secretary William Dar sa lahat ng ating mga regions na i-monitor ‘yung mga pwedeng ma-activate na mga farm machineries. Dapat po talaga mabigyan natin ng tulong ’yung mga farmers natin kasi nga po farm machineries are not their primary area of competence and we need to be able to assist them (This was among the priorities set in the last two weeks by the Secretary — for the regions to look out for machinery that can be activated, to help the farmers, because repair is not their primary area of competence),” Mr. Vicerra said.

The Northern Luzon regional offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) proposed budgets worth P24.3 billion for next year.

DA-Region I proposed a P8-billion budget, well above its actual P1.7 billion allocation this year. Personnel services will get P178 million, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) P1.8 billion, and capital outlays P5.9 billion.

DA-Region II proposed an P11-billion budget, including personnel services of P225 million, MOOE P6.9 billion, and capital outlays of P4.8 billion. It had a budget of P1.74 billion this year.

DA-Cordillera Administrative Region proposed P5.34 billion, against its 2020 budget of P1.28 billion, with a personnel services allocation of P143 million, MOOE P1.39 billion, and capital outlays P3.80 billion.

Budget deliberations in Congress are usually held after the President’s State of the Nation Address in July. — Genshen L. Espedido