Piñol claims Duterte backs raising agriculture budget ‘10 times’

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Emmanuel F. Piñol

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol invoked President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s authorization to propose a budget “10 times” his department’s current funding level, which was P56 billion in 2018.

Mr. Piñol said in a social media post that the President gave him the instruction “during a full Cabinet meeting last night (Monday night).”

There was no immediate confirmation of the budget instruction from the President’s spokesman at deadline time. Asked for comment, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said via text message: “Budgets are proposed by the President but approved by the legislature. The budget for 2019 has just been passed by the legislature and is awaiting action by the President. The allotment for the DA has not increased by 10x. The 2020 budget is being crafted now and no figures are available yet.”

“During a full Cabinet meeting last night, the President asked the Agriculture Secretary to submit a budget proposal ‘10 times bigger’ than what it has now,” Mr. Piñol said in his post.

A budget of 10 times current levels would constitute a significant portion of national spending. The 2019 budget is about P3.7 trillion.

“‘Tell me how much you need and I will ask Sonny (Mr. Dominguez) to give you the money,’ the President told me during the Cabinet meeting which lasted until 12 midnight,” Mr. Piñol added.

According to Mr. Piñol, the President said that he wants a higher budget for the agriculture sector as the country’s population is increasing by two million annually.

“The President also said that there should be greater focus on agricultural infrastructure and asked the concerned departments to revisit the Roll-On, Roll-Off Program of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” Mr. Piñol said.

“The President also asked DA to focus on the farm-to-market food chain to ensure that farmers and fishermen are able to sell their produce at a fair price,” he added. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio with Arjay L. Balinbin