By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — A bigger agriculture budget, especially during the pandemic,
would ease hunger and save jobs, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
said Thursday, noting that the massive cut in the Department of
Agriculture (DA) budget even as the sector suffered from the
African swine fever and substantial job losses.
“Our hog industry lost almost 100 billion pesos last year due to ASF.
The 2022 budget for agriculture is only P72 billion. That is really
very meager,” he said.
“A bigger agriculture budget would help ensure that our people won’t
go hungry and jobs in the sector would be saved,” he added.
The government economic team is currently briefing the Senate on the
proposed 2022 national budget. The budget proposal from the DA of
about P250 billion was slashed to P72 billion for DA and its attached
agencies. This includes the budget of the National Irrigation
Administration (NIA) the remainder of P72 billion is DA’s budget.
When Pangilinan asked for a clarification on the DA budget cut,
Undersecretary Tina Canda of the Department of Budget Management (DBM)
said that the DA was unable to comply with the requirements for the
evaluation of its requested budget.
The DBM said that justifications for each DA program were not
submitted to the DBM.
At the briefing, Economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, citing a
June-July survey, said the agriculture sector lost over a million jobs
or about half of the jobs lost during the period.
Pangilinan, who was Secretary of Food Security and Agricultural
Modernization in the Aquino administration said given this,
government should focus on agriculture.
“Half of those who lost their jobs came from the agriculture sector so
it should receive proportional budget attention,” he said.
Pangilinan asserts that government must be strategic in securing food
for 110 million Filipinos, and increasing the budget of the Department
of Agriculture should be one of the basic steps.
“Eventually we should have maybe double, triple, or quadruple the
agriculture budget over a period of maybe 5, 6 years because it’s left
behind,” he said.
“I remember I manifested this before. During my first term in the
Senate, the budget for infrastructure combined was about P200 billion.
Today it’s over a trillion in a span of maybe 10-15 years. This is
DOTR and DPWH. Mahalaga ang infrastructure pero mas mahalaga ang
pagkain. So sana strategically pagka hinihingi yung P250 billion, eh
wag naman sana P72 billion lang ang ibigay,” he added. (ai/mtvn)