DA appeals for increase in 2021 budget allocation
The Department of Agriculture (DA) saw its budget for 2021 slashed by 17 percent from the level this year despite calls from the President and select lawmakers to increase the funding for the sector, noting the significant role it could play in the economy’s recovery.
In a phone interview, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said they would continue to appeal to Congress for an increase in the agency’s budget allocation under the proposed national expenditure program, which is currently set at P66.4 billion.
The allocation is 17 percent lower from the agency’s budget this year of P79.9 billion, and 72 percent off the agency’s budget proposal for 2021 of P240 billion.
“We wish we could have more because the sector of agriculture has shown that it can grow despite the [coronavirus] pandemic … we hope there is still a way to increase our budget,” Dar said.
The reduction in DA’s annual budget was surprising for the agency, given that President Duterte had expressed his support to efforts to boost the sector during his latest State of the Nation Address.
The President championed the agency’s proposed “Plant, Plant, Plant” program during his speech, and likened it to the government’s flagship program for infrastructure called “Build, Build, Build.”
The Plant program needs P66 billion to be implemented, which Dar said would increase the productivity and incomes in the industry’s sub-sectors, including crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries.
In his message to Congress, the President also said the 2021 national budget would focus on funding the sectors of health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.
A quick look at the 2021 National Expenditure Program, however, showed that the agencies that got the biggest funding were the departments of education, public works and highways, local government, defense and the social welfare and development. The DA ranked seventh.
“What I know is that they (lawmakers) have identified the sectors of the economy that should be given high priority support. Agriculture was supposed to be the third after health and education … we know that a sustained increase in the budgetary support for agriculture would help the economy. Both Houses know that we’ve been clamoring for more funding to help local agriculture reach its full potential,” said Dar.
The secretary suggested that the remaining stimulus package for agriculture of P42 billion be added to the proposed funding for DA, which would bring the agency’s budget for next year to 108.4 billion.
He added that he and other DA officials had yet to discuss potential cuts in the agency’s programs given the possibility of lower funding. INQ
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