By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — What is the connection between farm-to-market roads and the
government’s response to the Covid pandemic?
Senator and Partido Reporma presidential standard bearer Panfilo
“Ping” M. Lacson asked this on Monday as he noted P5 billion intended
for the government’s Covid-19 response was used to cover funding
requirements for the implementation of farm-to-market road projects
under the Agriculture Stimulus Package of Bayanihan 2.
“We noticed releases under Bayanihan 2 focused on farm-to-market roads
worth P5 billion. Can you explain the connection between this farm-to-market
road releases and the government’s Covid response?
Parang hindi ko ma-connect (I cannot seem to make the connection),” he
said in his interpellation of the DA’s budget.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, who was sponsoring the DA’s budget, replied it
could be for improving logistics – triggering laughter inside the
Senate session hall.
“We laugh about this but this is no joking matter. This is the
the national budget of the Republic of the Philippines,” Lacson noted.
Also, Lacson questioned the 17-percent increase in the DA’s funding
for Agri-Machinery, Equipment, Facilities, and Infrastructure program
from P11.3 billion to P13.32 billion – with the bulk of the increase
for farm-to-market roads from P4.98 billion under the National
Expenditure Program to P6.95 billion under the House version of the
When asked about such increases, the DA denied being looped into the
details of the projects.
Lacson noted that it is a “perennial problem” for agencies like the DA
getting added funds for projects like farm-to-market roads but not
being consulted about them.
“There are other priorities when they prepared the budget to answer
the budget call. They were tedious in preparing the budget. Now, all
of a sudden, at the snap of a finger, nawala ang budget, nalipat kung
saan (with the funds being transferred elsewhere). This is a perennial
problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson reiterated his call for proper funding for research
and development, noting DA Secretary William Dar is also an advocate
of research. (ai/mtvn)