FARMERS belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas havey demanded full transparency on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) P31-billion supplemental fund to ensure food security during the enhanced community quarantine.
The DA has listed lump sum amounts to be included in the Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat Kontra sa Covid-19 or ALPAS Covid program that will ensure “a food-secure Philippines in time of the health emergency period.”
The breakdown of the P31-billion Department of Agriculture ALPAS-Covid supplemental budget include P7.5 billion - Rice Resiliency Project; P7 billion - Palay Procurement fund for the National Food Authority; P3 billion - expanded SURE Aid and recovery project; P3 billion - expanded agriculture insurance project; P3 billion - Social Amelioration for farmers and farm workers; P1 billion - Upscaling of Kadiwa centers; and P1 billion - Integrated Livestock and Corn Resiliency Project.
The others are P1 billion - Expanded Small Ruminants and Poultry project; P1 billion - Coconut-based Diversification project; P1 billion - Fisheries Resiliency Project; P1 billion - Revitalized Gulayan Project; P500 million - Urban Agriculture Project; P500 million - Acquisition of Protective Personal Equipment; P300 million - Corn for Food project; and P200 million - Information, Education and Communications project.
The programs will ensure immediate interventions for food production and availability, food accessibility and affordability, and food price stabilization during the quarantine period.
However, KMP said that only P3-billion was allocated for actual cash aid or social amelioration for farmers and farm workers or equivalent to P5,000 cash subsidy for 600,000 farmers to be identified by DA. Almost 90% of the budget or Php28-billion are lump sum amounts mostly for soft projects and loan programs.
The DA will be in charge of the disbursement of the Php31-billion that is on top of of the agency’s P62.29 billion budget for 2020.
For 2020, the DA has a total of 93-billion budget at its disposal.
“Mas kakaunti ang pondong aktwal na sasayad sa mga magsasaka at manggagawang bukid kung sakaling umabot man ito sa kanila. Mukhang may kikita pa dito sa napakalaking pondo ng ALPAS-Covid. Sa unang tingin pa lang sa mga inilatag na programa ng DA, mas malaki ang para sa pautang at mga programang bulnerable sa korapsyon,” the group said.
Out of the P7.5 billion for Rice Resiliency Project, P2 billion will go to fertilizer to 947 targeted municipalities growing inbred rice; P3 billion for seeds, fertilizer, mechanization, credit and extension; and P2.5 billion for hybrid rice production in areas with good irrigation.
Another P7 billion will go to NFA for local palay procurement while the fund for the livestock and corn, vegetable production or gulayan, coconut-base diversification, fish resiliency, and poultry projects. These projects were allotted with P1-billion each are also exposed to the possibility of corruption.
Another P3 billion will go to insurance and another Php3-billion will go to loan program for farmers or the SURE AID.
“Why allot an additional P200 million for information, education and communications when the DA can actually source this from its existing communications budget for 2020?” the KMP asked.
“Farmers need direct, actual cash aid and production subsidies. Farmers do not need any more loans as they are already buried in debts. We need DA to further itemize the budget and explain how the P31-billion ALPAS Covid fund will really trickle down to farmers, farm workers and fisher folks,” it added.