THE Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food said it will be looking into the disbursement of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to expedite the delivery of aid to farmers during the pandemic.

Under Senate Resolution No. 347, the committee asks the Department of Agriculture (DA) to report on the status of the fund, intended to provide support to farmers.

“We would like to know if the funds are being distributed and utilized for their intended purposes and beneficiaries,” Senator Cynthia A. Villar said in a statement Thursday.

“The Senate Committee which I chair has oversight authority over ACEF, so we would like to look into it and get regular updates from the DA.”

Ms. Villar also said the committee will be asking the Department of Budget and Management about farmer complaints regarding unreleased funds.

“We are in a crisis now, so farmers need all the support they can get… If the funds are there, then they should be released to the farmers and fisherfolk.” The fund was provided under the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which expired in 2015, but was later extended until 2022. Ms. Villar also said the inquiry will deter any misuse of the funds.

“ACEF was mishandled and misused before. We don’t want a repeat of that,” she said.

“The loans were extended to big corporations and influential people instead of to small farmers and fisherfolk.”

The law provided that 80% of the fund will be disbursed in the form of credit with minimal interest and should not exceed P5 million per project loan. This covers the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and processing machineries, equipment and facilities.

The other 10% will be extended as grants for agricultural research and development, while the remainder will be used for scholarship grants and grant-in-aid programs. — Charmaine A. Tadalan