Opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” N. Pangilinan today sought the commitment of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to come up with a template and pilot program for direct purchases of agricultural products from farmers and fisherfolk.
Paniglinan, presidential assistant on food security and agricultural development in the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, called this ‘’a win-win strategy.’’
“Ang laking bagay po nyan sa pagsuporta sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda. And it’s win-win. The DSWD is able to support the marginalized sector of food producers and it’s able to serve other marginalized sectors in its feeding programs, for example. We hope that DSWD can put together some templating now in coordination with the Department of Agriculture,” Pangilinan said. (This is a big thing for our farmers and fishefolk.)
The farmer-senator pointed out that the reported underpricing and dumping of vegetable harvests from Benguet and other parts of the country would not happen, or at least reduced, if national government agencies like DSWD serve as the assured market of farmers and fisherfolk in various food-related government programs.
According to news reports, cabbage from La Trinidad now sells below the production cost, forcing farmers to sell at a losing price or donating their produce.
At last Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee “I” meeting to discuss the proposed 2021 budget of the DSWD and its attached agencies, Pangilinan pointed to specific items in the DSWD budget that it could use to purchase directly from accredited farmers and fisherfolk organizations.
Of DSWD’s proposed P169.3-illion budget for 2021, Pangilinan identified these as: supplemental feeding program (P3.7 billion), disaster response (P2 billion), and protective services (P12 billion).
“I identified these following budgets and they are in the tune of billions. Do you have pilot efforts in coordination with DA, so that you can source for supplemental feeding requirement, food packs assistance program, disaster relief in terms of direct purchases sa ating farmers and fisherfolk organization?” Pangilinan asked, to which DWSD Secretary Rolando Bautista replied in the negative.
“I say this because based on the report from the DA, LGUs (local government units) alone from the last four months have purchased over P6 billion worth of agri products sa ating mga farmers and fisherfolk (from our farmers and fisherfolk). . In almost all the instances, at least from the reports that are coming in, mas mataas ang bili ng LGU sa ating mga farmers kumpara sa mga middleman (LGUs buy at a price from farmers from middlemen) Which means mataas ang kinikita ng ating farmers and fisherfolk,” Pangilinan added. (This means that the earnings of our farmers and fisherfolks are bigger.)
The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) allows national and local government agencies to directly purchase agricultural and fishery products from farmers and fisherfolk and agriculture cooperatives as a form of direct assistance.
The Government Procurement Policy Board in April also released a memorandum circular that facilitates this procurement and relaxing the requirements for farmers to be recognized as part of the program.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has reported that LGUs were able to directly purchase over P6 billion worth of agricultural products as part of their relief and assistance for constituents. Over 400 LGUs purchased directly from 518 farmers and 245 farmers cooperatives and associations as of July 2020.
DSWD ranks fifth in terms of allocation according to the 2021 proposed National Expenditure Program.
Pangilinan is the author of the Sagip Saka Act of 2019 which aims to increase the incomes in the agriculture sector by mandating national and local government units and agencies to purchase directly from accredited farmers and fisherfolk organizations through negotiated procurement.