Leaders of the House of Representatives have called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to release its criteria in the identification of farm-to-market road (FMR) projects in the legislative districts, take a second look at its listing under the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, and prioritize the listings submitted by the district representatives to ensure “greater equity and responsiveness” to the needs of farmers.
House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, TINGOG Sinirangan partylist Rep. Yedda Romualdez, and Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman scored the DA for its failure to include the recommendation made by the lawmakers as far as the list of the FMR projects is concerned.
“The FMR projects identified by a significant number of Legislative District Representatives have not been reflected in the National Expenditure Program for two consecutive years,” they said in filing House Resolution No. 1209.
“This is a clear violation of Section 24, Article 6 of the Constitution which states that “all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments,” they pointed out.
Under HR No. 1209, the House leaders called on the DA to review the listing included in the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP), and ensure that the list of FMR projects identified by the district representatives will be considered.
Citing Republic Act No. 8435, the Agriculture and Fisheries Act of 1997, they noted that the DA is mandated to be “on top of the construction and upgrading of FMR projects to improve the mobility of goods, services, and the general public.”
They explained that the DA, through its Regional Directors, requests District Representatives to identify priority FMR projects for their inclusion in the NEP under its budget.
“The Representatives duly comply with the said request and, after consultation with local farmers/farmers groups, propose a list of FMR projects in their respective districts in order to submit these lists to the Regional Department or Agricultural Offices,” the lawmakers said.
They said the lists will then be submitted by the Regional Offices to the DA Central Office for its “consideration and possible inclusion in the annual budget.”
During a virtual meeting of the House Special Committee on North Luzon Growth Quadrangle on June 29, lawmakers asked the DA to apprise them of the status of FMR projects that were “delisted” under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and give them the complete list of FMR projects for this year and those initially proposed for 2021.
They also asked the DA to “properly coordinate” and consult with the members of the Lower Chamber when it comes up with the listing of FMR projects per region, after they were supposedly not consulted by the DA Regional Directors during the identification of the FMR projects, and were not even informed once such infrastructure projects have been approved and are set to be implemented.
DA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rodolfo Vicerra told the special panel, chaired by Pangasinan 5th district Rep. Ramon Guico III, that the DA is pushing for a “bigger budget” for 2021 to ensure the implementation of the much-needed FMRs in the countryside.