DA now back in full operation, seeks ₱32-B stimulus share

Published May 5, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA), its bureaus, regional field offices, attached agencies, and corporations nationwide are resuming full operations despite the rising cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)
Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

As this happens, players in the agriculture sector are now asking for a ₱32-billion share from the economic recovery stimulus package being pushed for in the Congress now.

This, according to them, should be used to increase productivity and value-added farm goods such as livestock and fishery, not just on rice and corn, to enable economic resurgence amid the pandemic.

Starting this week, all heads of DA agencies must resume the provision of production, marketing and financial assistance, and other services in the agriculture sector.

This is part of the government’s efforts to gradually transition into the “new normal” amid the implementation of enhanced or general community quarantine in the country.

“Actually, the DA family has been working during the entire ECQ [enhanced community quarantine] period since March 15, whether in the office or from home. But this time, with EO [Executive Order] 112, we are shifting to fifth gear to continuously provide needed services to our varied clienteles, most particularly to small farmers and fishers, under the ‘new normal’ environment,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

EO 112 was issued last week to maintain the ECQ in high-risk geographic areas and general community quarantine (GCQ) in the rest of the country.

Under the revised guidelines of the EO 112, the high-risk areas placed under the ECQ from May 1 to 15 are the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan, Benguet, Iloilo, Cebu, Bacolod, Davao.

As part of this, Dar also instructed all DA offices to ensure the unhampered activities and movement of frontliners – farmers, fisherfolk, workers of agri-fishery processing and manufacturing firms – along the food value chain, including their respective employees at the central and regional field offices.

“We have no problem with LGUs [local government units] that wish to pursue ECQ, as long as all activities related to agriculture and food production remain unimpeded,” Dar said.

“Since the start of the Luzon-wide quarantine, we have been appealing to local chief executives to ensure the unhampered movement of all agriculture and fishery stakeholders to ensure continued production and delivery of food to our countrymen, particularly those in highly urbanized areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) wrote a letter to Dar and Albay Representative Joey Salceda, chairperson of the Economic Stimulus Response Package (ESRP) cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 special committee in Congress, requesting for the national government to allot a significant budget to the country’s agriculture productivity.

To recall, the DA has requested a supplemental budget of nearly ₱32 billion to implement its ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program, but only the project’s rice component will get a sure funding of ₱8.5 billion for now.

With the budget’s limitation compared to the gargantuan need in agriculture, PCAFI asserted the budget should primarily zero in on productivity even in livestock, fishery, export-oriented fruits, and vegetables.

“Focus should be on productivity, in time for the increasing demand and consumption towards the third and fourth quarter of 2020, as a result of the grand stimulus package in order for the Philippine economy to recover,” said PCAFI President Danilo Fausto.