The private sector’s nonnegotiable role in the agri industry

The private sector’s nonnegotiable role in the agri industry

For our long-awaited agriculture development, budget implementation is also critical.

This coming April 17, this should be top of mind as the public-private Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) considers the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposed budget for 2025. By government mandate, the agriculture budget cannot be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) without approval from the PCAF.

Note that over the last decade, Vietnam has allocated an average of 6 percent of its total budget for agriculture while ours only got a measly 2 percent. Thankfully, the current administration has significantly improved this. For 2024, the DA budget is up 31 percent.


READ: Low agri budget for 2024: Group says it shows farming not priority


Still, proper use of the budget remains a big challenge.
It bears repeating again and again that for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, the Commission on Audit (COA) found unliquidated or unexplained expenses amounting to one-third of the DA’s total expenses.

The Alyansa Agrikultura wrote letters to the Senate blue ribbon and agriculture committees asking for an investigation into the matter, yet no response was ever given. Since matters such as these are important, complaint letters should also be sent to the Senate president and the House of Representatives Speaker for the desired action.


Under the current leadership, there has been great improvement in private sector participation when it comes to budget formulation. It used to be that PCAF would be presented a DA-prepared budget without proper assessment from the private sector, which was not given enough time to study it.

Under time pressure, the private sector had no choice but to give its approval. At one point, the private sector gave its reservation, but the official transmission of the DA and DBM made no mention of such reservation.

The good news is, there is now a complete turnaround.

Just recently, a three-day budget session that included the private sector was held in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. This was followed by three more days of discussions at the DA head office.


The results of these consultations will be given to PCAF on April 17. However, there is no plan yet to present the proposed budget monitoring system with private sector participation, which will ensure that corruption and waste will be minimized.

Last Jan. 5, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. also started a process that should be continued and strengthened. He restored a practice directing regional executive directors to present all DA-funded projects to the private sector-led regional agriculture and fisheries councils to allow proper monitoring.


Sans private sector involvement, here is how corruption usually happens.

With agriculture funds devolved to local government units (LGUs), some would not liquidate their budgets. Whenever this happens, there is always a possibility of massive corruption and waste. Although the DA is ultimately responsible for budget use, they would often say it was not their fault that the LGUs did not liquidate their expenses.

READ: 5 steps to prevent corruption at the DA

Systematic reports should have been made so that erring LGUs would be held accountable and penalized as appropriate. Instead, the Pontius Pilate syndrome (and possible connivance) always prevailed. For the funds directly disbursed by the DA, the private sector could do nothing since they were prevented from monitoring this.

The COA would then come in and find unexplained expenses. In the end, no one is penalized. It’s basically a vicious cycle that needs to stop.

It is already bad enough that the DA gets such a small percentage of the total budget compared to other countries. For one-third to be lost to corruption and waste is an absolute disaster.

What Tiu Laurel started last Jan. 5 must now be continued and strengthened during the PCAF budget meeting on April 17. This is the only way we can reduce poverty, face global competition and survive during the potentially dangerous free trade regime.

Private sector monitoring of the DA budget is a nonnegotiable imperative we must immediately implement. INQ

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry.

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TAGS: agri industry, DA budget

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