SENATORS on Monday questioned the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) limited use of its P24-billion allocation from the second stimulus package, known as Bayanihan II, as well as higher pork prices.

The department spent 25% of the funding from Bayanihan II, which is formally known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or, Republic Act No. 11494, as of December, Senator Cynthia A. Villar said, citing a report on the law’s implementation.

Ang na-spend niyo lang as of December, 25%. Diba dapat tapos na ng Dec. 19 ‘yang Bayanihan na ‘yan buti in-extend ‘yan (You spent only 25% as of December. Wasn’t that law originally set to expire on Dec. 19? It’s a good thing it was extended),” Ms. Villar, who chairs the Agriculture and Food committee, said.

Ms. Villar also raised the inadequacy of the funds set aside for hog breeding relative to the funding earmarked for rice.

Napunta na naman sa rice, hindi naman rice ang problema natin kasi may RCEF (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) na, National Rice Resiliency fund (The funding again went to rice, which is not the problem because the industry already has RCEF and NRR funds),” she said. 

Alam niyong magkakaroon ng problema dito because of ASF (African Swine Fever) parang wala akong nakitang repopulation of livestock (I don’t see any effort put into breeding even though the DA knows about the problems caused by ASF).”

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the department will continue to realign its budget to increase funding for livestock, but noted the department has other funding sources for repopulating the livestock herd, which was decimated in Luzon due to culling to contain ASF.

In his presentation, Mr. Dar said the repopulation effort will receive P400 million from the quick response fund, P125 million from National Livestock Program, and P75 million from the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary William C. Medrano added P678 million of the Bayanihan II is earmarked for various livelihood programs for livestock and poultry.

At the same hearing, Mr. Dar said the department will recommend an adjustment to its proposed price ceiling for pork shoulder, or kasim, and pork belly, or liempo, to P280 and P310 per kilogram, respectively.

An executive order issued by the Palace Monday had gone out with the initial price caps of P270 and P300 per kilogram.

Mr. Dar said the department believes price manipulation is being carried out by wholesalers.

“We have analyzed this… the farmgate prices are within range,” he told the Senators. “Itong farmgate prices ay P132 to P185, now pagdating na sa merkado, P400 pataas. Sino ang nag mamanipula? It’s the byahero, the wholesalers (Farmgate prices are between P132 and P185, but retail prices are at P400 and up. Who is doing the manipulating? It is the wholesalers bringing the pork to market.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan