By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Despite its own perceived improvement in the way it spends its yearly budget, the Department of Agriculture (DA) still failed to convince the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) of its capacity to fully utilize its funds.
Because of this, the DA will only receive nearly P10 billion for next year’s implementation of what is considered as one of the agency’s biggest programs, the farm-to-market road (FMR) projects.
DBM said the smaller allocation was due to “the department’s slow budget disbursement registered in the past years.”
In 2014, the DA’s disbursement rate was a measly 5.9 percent. This means that out of the P12-billion FMR appropriations, the DA disbursed a meager P708 million.
The DA, however, registered a significant increase in disbursement rate for 2015 at 42.8 percent. But this eventually went down anew to 39.1 percent and to 38.1 percent for 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Last year, the DA appealed to lawmakers to pump the budget for FMR program to P20 billion, but it was never granted.
“We want the DA to improve its disbursement rate and translate its budget to actual delivery of FMR projects,” DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in a statement on Wednesday.
This is in line with the shift to an annual cash-based appropriations from the two-year obligation-based budgeting system.
Under the new scheme, contracts should be fully delivered by the end of the FY, which effectively shifts project implementation to a one-year horizon.
As such, government agencies have to keep up by improving their performance in terms of disbursements and actual delivery of goods and services, Diokno said.
Republic Act No. 8435 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Act of 1997 mandates the DA to be on top of the construction and upgrading of FMR projects.
FMRs improve the mobility of goods, services, and the general public. They serve as links for better access to basic social services such as health centers, schools, and areas for employment.
“FMRs are the foundation of modern agriculture,” the DA’s FMR Network Plan states.
Based on the National Expenditure Program for 2019, the P10-billion budget for FMR program will be directly sent to the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) for the construction, rehabilitation and repair of the roads.
For this purpose, the DA shall ensure that the FMR network plan shall include the scope of work, estimated length in kilometers, and specific location for each of the FMR projects, and that FMRs are implemented are properly geotagged.
The approved FMR network plan shall be regularly updated to prioritize major rice, corn, and high value commercial crops producing provinces, areas where the majority of small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries are located, provinces or region where the absolute number of poor farmers, and incidence of poverty are high as identified in the latest official poverty statistics of Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).