By Ben Rosario
The chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture on Monday called for the increased 2020 budget for the Department of Agriculture to address various agriculture issues, including the entry in the country of the African Swine Fever (ASF).
Rep. Mark Enverga (NPC, Quezon) also called for an inquiry into the implementation of the Food Safety Act of 2013 to determine loopholes that may have resulted in the entry to the country of possible carriers of the ASF.
From its original proposal of P333 billion for 2020, the DA budget for the year was slashed to P71.8 billion, less than a fourth of the requested agency allocation, Enverga revealed.
“What is important to note is that the budget for livestock for FY 2020 tasked to deal with the ASF has dropped by 20 percent,” he said.
The agriculture panel is strongly urging the House appropriations committee to augment the DA budget by at least P10 billion, but the amount will have to be shared to carry out its programs for various agricultural fields, including the fight against ASF.
Enverga stressed that Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s confirmation that ASF was the cause of the hog deaths in Rizal should be enough reason for immediate action by government.
“Most immediate action that Congress should take would be to ensure that the budgetary needs of the agriculture department should be augmented to enable them to be responsive to probable needs and to protect the local hog raisers industry,” he said.
The lawmaker also urged local government units to start filling up positions for veterinarians to help contain the ASF from spreading.
Ang Magsasaka Partylist Rep. Argel Cabatbat backed Enverga’s call for additional DA budget “to ensure that our consumers and hog-raisers are properly protected.”
“We also trust that the private sector will not take advantage of the situation and keep the prices of pork within the suggested retail prices for our consumers,” Cabatbat said in a press statement.
Cabatbat also assured consumers that the ASF poses no grave threats to humans although the public should take necessary precautions since there remains no conclusive report on how the virus affects people.
“We advise our consumers to only buy meat that have been inspected and certified by the National Meat Inspection Service,” said Cabatbat.