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Commentary

DA budget effective, not wasteful

A CRITICAL segment of farmers and fisherfolk views the proposed 2013 Department of Agriculture (DA) budget of P74.1 billion with optimism and caution.

Optimism, because of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s integrity and dedication. Caution, because of a few key Agriculture officials who may not have the commitment or the capacity to fulfill Alcala’s vision of development.

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Last Oct. 16 during a Senate hearing on the 2013 DA budget, the Alyansa Agrikultura submitted a list of recommended provisions to make the DA budget more effective, rather than wasteful.

The Alyansa, composed of 42 federations and organizations representing all agricultural and fishery sectors, took into account the recommendations of its members, AF 2025 participants, Rice Watch, Alternative Budget Initiative (ATI) and Oxfam.

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Reality check

In 2011, the DA budget doubled to P34.8 billion from its level a few years earlier. It was then increased by 52 percent to P52.9 billion in 2012. With DA-attached agencies included, this amounts to P64.1 billion, with a proposed 21-percent increase to P74.1 billion next year.

With these significant increases, agricultural growth is expected to accelerate. Unfortunately, the 2011 growth was only 2.34 percent. This is only half the planned annual agricultural growth of 4.3 percent to 5.3 percent which the government has set in its 2011-2016 mid-term development plans.

****The 2012 growth in agriculture, as compared to other sectors, is listed in the table below:

Despite a 52-percent increase in the 2012 DA budget, agricultural growth rose by less than 1 percent. Only 73 percent of the 2011 budget was used, leaving P12.2 billion that could have been used to enhance agricultural growth in 2012.

Rice

We must do all we can to support DA’s ambitious and praiseworthy goal of attaining rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

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This will not be easy.

The 2010 palay yield reached 16.7 million tons. In 2011, the yield barely rose to 16.8 million tons despite the increase in budget.

For the country to attain its 2013 goal of becoming self-sufficient in rice, the Philippines will have to increase production from the 2011 level by 20 percent to yield 20.04 million tons.

This is difficult when viewed against the average annual palay yield increase of only 3.7 percent for the past ten years.

It has been argued that the target can be attained by raising the budget on irrigation. The irrigation budget of P24.5 billion this year is double the P12.8 billion of last year. The budget will also go up to P27.4 billion next year.

We recommend that a provision be included in the proposed budget of 2013 to ensure that the budget is properly spent. A December 2011 COA report shows unsatisfactory findings involving irrigation projects that are said to be completed, amounting to P80.4 billion, and those that are still ongoing, worth P61.5 billion. This is alarming.

Two provisions for adequate funding should therefore be included in the proposed 2013 budget. One is for capability building for the new irrigation farmer organizations, which will take charge of the proposed 135,000 irrigated hectares. The other is for irrigation project monitoring by civil service organizations. Without this independent monitoring, the COA report for 2013 may become worse, and the expected rice improvements may not be attained.

Smuggling

There is no specific DA provision to address smuggling, a key obstacle to agricultural growth.

Across all agricultural sectors, the Alyansa published an average 30-percent discrepancy between the converging import level reports of three independent organizations and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The difference can be accounted for mostly by outright smuggling, or technical smuggling (i.e., undervaluation, misdeclaration and misclassification).

For key agricultural sectors, this may be worse. In a published report, former Senator Ernesto Maceda showed that more than half of the rice imports were smuggled. Columnist Alex Magno published a similar finding on this issue.

During an Oct. 14 Senate hearing, false information was given, alleging that the DA personnel were already accessing the Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM) that had been previously held only by the BoC.

The IFM lists the import data two days before arrival. Thus, all agricultural imports that do not have import permits are smuggled, and therefore can be confiscated for smuggling.

Unfortunately, my personal interviews with DA personnel who have access to this IFM data reveal that they are still not doing it because of the complicated procedure the BoC gave them, as well as the lack of six computers.

If there is an anti-smuggling budget provision, procedures like IFM access and other anti-smuggling actions can be undertaken effectively to stop this scourge on the agricultural community.

Conclusion

President Aquino has said, “ikaw ang boss ko,” referring to the Filipino people. It is now necessary for the Senate and the DA to listen to the recommendations of the farmers and fisherfolk before the 2013 budget is finalized.

Additional provisions such as the two recommended here should be included in the 2013 budget so that it will be effective, rather than wasteful. Otherwise, the DA budget can become a bane, rather than a boon, for agricultural development.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for Agriculture, and Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112)

2012 ECONOMIC GROWTH

Sectors           Q1(%)       Q2 (%)

Agriculture,

Fishery, Forestry 1.0         0.7

Industry          4.9        4.6

Services      8.5      7.6

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TAGS: Business, column, department of agriculture budget, ernesto m. ordonez, rice self-sufficiency, Smuggling
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