With four months remaining in the year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) continues to implement major interventions to ensure adequate, accessible, and affordable food to millions of Filipino households, particularly in Metro Manila and other major consumption centers, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We refocused part of our remaining budget for the year, of which 73 percent has been utilized for key initiatives to ensure that every Filipino family has enough food on their table during this pandemic,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar in a recent meeting of the economic development cluster (EDC) of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.
“Part of that 73 percent includes the P8.5-billion (B) rice resiliency project (RRP) and the P3-B Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF),” said secretary Dar.
“The remaining 27 percent is provided as cash assistance through the Rice Farmers’ Financial Assistance (RFFA), and zero-interest loans to marginal, small farmers and fisherfolk, whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, as well as to agri-based micro and small enterprises,” he added.
Of the allotment for major commodity programs, 74 percent (%) was already spent; for loan assistance, 94% was already released; and for cash assistance to small rice farmers, fully used up at 100%.
The EDC meeting, held virtually on September 1, was chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who facilitated the presentations of key agencies on the status of their respective fiscal stimulus and ongoing programs to revitalize the country’s economy, specifically enhancing infrastructure projects, consumer spending, and job generation, among other pump-priming initiatives.
During the meeting, Secretary Dar was joined by DA Undersecretary Cheryl Natividad Caballero, who presented the P17.5-billion refocused 2020 DA budget and the proposed P24-billion stimulus package for agriculture under the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or “Bayanihan 2.”
The P24-B budget will be allocated for agri-fishery productivity enhancement projects (P8.7B), income enhancement projects (P8.8B), and social protection and amelioration projects (P6.5B), Caballero said.
“In particular, the additional fund will partly bankroll the Duterte administration’s Plant Plant Plant Program to ensure food security and continuous productivity of the agri-fishery sector. And part of it will be allotted for direct cash subsidies, zero-interest loans, and other forms of assistance to qualified agri-fishery enterprises, farmers and fisherfolk under the farmers’ registry or RSBSA, and farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), added Caballero, who serves as the Secretary Dar’s chief of staff.
The Bayanihan 2 awaits the final approval and signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Other agencies that presented during the EDC meeting were the departments of finance (DOF), trade and industry (DTI), tourism (DOT), social welfare and development (DSWD), transportation (DOTr), health (DOH), science and technology (DOST), and information and communications technology. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms)