Delay in farm credit releases hit
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) decried the failure of lawmakers to resolve the continued delay in the release of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (Acef), with more than 2,000 applications worth P3.5 billion still pending for this year.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food headed by Sen. Cynthia Villar scheduled a hearing to discuss the implementation of the Acef early this week. The hearing, however, centered on the persistence of red tape in the distribution of funding but failed to resolve the issue on delayed releases.
Reports from Land Bank of the Philippines during the hearing showed that as of January 2020, the state-run bank was able to lend P4.16 billion under Acef. It also has P3.5 billion in loan proposals waiting for approval as it also awaits the replenishment of the Acef funding.
However, according to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Acef special account still had a balance of more than P3 billion that could be disbursed immediately. BOC collects import duties from agricultural products, the source of funding for Acef.
“The Senate Agriculture Committee under Sen. Villar could have instructed the BOC, the Bureau of Treasury and the Department of Budget and Management to release the fund balance immediately. Instead, the discussions during the hearing focused on Sen. Villar’s contention that Acef fund releases should not pass through the DA (Department of Agriculture) and should instead go directly to the implementing agencies like Landbank … in order to avoid delays,” FFF national chair Raul Montemayor said.
“It is unfortunate that Sen. Villar centered on an administrative issue instead of finding a way to address the urgent credit needs of farmers,” he added.
According to Villar, the revised Acef law was meant to cut the layered bureaucratic processes by removing DA from the implementing agencies.
However, provisions that were amended in 2016 did not explicitly state that the Acef funding should not go through the DA. Instead, it stated that scholarship programs and credit distribution must be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education and Landbank, respectively.
The Acef funding is mandated to be used for farmers’ credit (80 percent) and scholarship projects (20 percent).
The FFF also pointed out that there should not be any delays in the disbursement of Acef funds because the money has been in DBM’s Special Account since 2018.
Villar said another hearing would be scheduled to discuss Acef.
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