By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is now banking on the possibility that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will get additional budget of as much as P20 billion for next year — which will be used to subsidized farmers in lieu of the liberalization of rice importation as well as shield the country from the foreseen shortfall in the global supply of meat.
The budget increase for DA was floated by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who thinks that a higher budget allocation for the agriculture sector could ultimately be the answer to the country’s inflation woes.
This, since the DA is the government agency in charge of food production and it can be recalled that the increase in food and fuel prices were considered as the main drivers of inflation, which zoomed to 6.4 percent, its highest level in nearly 10 years, in August.
When inflation peaked to 6.6 percent in 2009, Arroyo, during her term as the President of the Philippines, immediately injected funds to the agriculture sector as one of the measures to arrest the increasing prices of goods.
“Speaker Arroyo mentioned during a budget hearing that they are not happy with the P55 billion budget to be given to DA for next year and that they are now working to increase that. Joey Salceda, one of the economic confidants of Speaker Arroyo, told me that they’re expecting additional budget for the DA, especially now that all eyes are on food prices,” Piñol said.
For 2019, the DA may only be given a fund of P55.9 billion, which is lower by P6 billion from its budget this year.
Piñol said that House is looking to increase the DA’s budget by P20 billion, P10 billion of which will be used as a subsidy for farmers once the amended Agricultural Tariffication Act is passed.
Amending Republic Act (RA) No. 8178, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, will make up for the lifting of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice imports through the imposition of 35 percent tariff on rice.