By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard Today
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged the government on Friday to ramp up its spending for agriculture to avert its decline and ensure the country’s food security.
He noted that based on the report of the National Statistics Coordination Board, agriculture declined by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of the year, mainly because of poor palay, corn and sugarcane production which declined 15.7 percent, 1.7 percent and 41.5 percent respectively.
“If we don’t act fast to reverse this alarming trend we might find ourselves in a situation where food is scarce and prices are skyrocketing,” Marcos warned.
“What is frustrating is that while Congress has provided an adequate budget to spur the growth of our agricultural sector, government has failed to use the already available funds to help our farmers,” he said.
Marcos said records of the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Agriculture showed that the government used only 62 percent of its P55 billion allocation as of Sept. 30 this year.
He said this “allocation for DA does not include available funding for attached agencies and corporations such as the National Irrigation Administration, National Food Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.”
“Among others, the government should expand our existing irrigation system which is crucial in our quest for self-sufficiency in rice,” Marcos recommended.
“Out of the total estimated irrigable area in the country of over three million hectares some 1.3 million hectares remain without any irrigation.”
Marcos also called for better access to formal credits and financing with easier payment terms, crop insurance and additional support infrastructures such as post-harvest facilities, farm-to-market roads and improved agricultural extension services.
In addition, Marcos said the government should help farmers rise from the effects of natural calamities and prepare them as well from the adverse impact of the Asean integration.
“Majority of our poor belong to the agriculture sector. By pouring more help in agriculture we are not only helping the poor but also building a solid foundation for the growth of our economy,” he said.