SENATOR Cynthia Villar is pushing for a fair distribution of the Department of Agriculture (DA) budget for next year warning that the agency's proposed budget for the livestock and poultry sector will not be enough to fund the development of the industry.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, noted that only three percent of the DA's budget proposal is allocated for the livestock and poultry sector, which contributes to some 33 percent to the agriculture component of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Sitting as chairperson of the Senate finance subcommittee hearing the P60-billion proposed budget of the DA for 2018, Villar asked Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to come up with a better budget for the livestock sector, which is reeling from the effects of the bird flu virus that hit poultry and duck farms in Central Luzon.

"For a sector which has contributed 33 percent of the production of the entire agriculture, it is not fair for the livestock program to get only this small amount," Villar said.

The country's agriculture sector is composed of crops (50 percent); livestock, poultry, and dairy (33 percent); and fisheries (15 percent).

Villar asked Piñol to increase the budget for livestock, poultry, and dairy because this sector produces 33 percent of their output.

"Ang liit-liit ng budget na binigay nila so sabi ko dapat fair. Parang three percent of the budget," she said, adding.

Villar said that as a matter of equity the agriculture budget should approximate the contribution of each sector to the economy.

The senator also noted that for many years, the National Livestock Program is getting only a small share in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

The 2017 General Appropriations Act allocated P1.5 billion for livestock. For NEP 2018, the livestock program got P1.2 billion or a 2.7 percent share. The Fisheries Development Program got P1.4 billion while the National Rice Program got P11.8 billion.

"We need to improve the livestock sector so that we can also improve the dairy industry, which at present, only produces 1 percent of our demand for milk and other dairy products. We should also take into account that 65 percent of our livestock raisers are backyard farmers,” Villar said.

The senator also said that a bigger budget for livestock and poultry will enable the government to extend assistance to small backyard farmers affected by the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

The proposed budget of DA of P60 billion consists of P58 billion in new appropriations and P2.7 billion automatic appropriations. (SunStar Philippines)