The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) senate-approved budget for 2021 is P86 billion, which is only 30 percent of the agency’s original budget proposal of P280 billion.
In a statement, DA said the senate in a plenary session approved the proposed P85.58-billion budget of the DA, including those of its bureaus, and attached agencies and corporations.
While this is way smaller than the DA’s original budget request of P280 billion for 2021, this is still higher compared to its actual 2020 budget of P64.7 billion.
When asked if DA thinks this is enough for next year, DA Spokesperson Noel Reyes said the agency is still asking for additional P42 billion, which represents the balance of the P66-billion COVID-19 stimulus package approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Of the P66 billion, P24 billion was already given to the DA under the Bayanihan 2.
“The HOR [House of Representatives] version of the 2021 DA budget includes the said P42 billion,” Reyes said.
In total, the DA may end up with a total budget of P128 billion for 2021.
This would also be slightly higher than the total amount of money that the DA has received for this year, including the aforementioned P24-billion stimulus package, P8.5-billion fund for rice resiliency project (RRP), and the P3-billion Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF).
In the next few weeks, the proposed DA budget for 2021 will undergo final scrutiny as part of the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for the second, third, and final reading at the Senate.
After the Senate’s formal approval of the budget, select members of both legislative houses will convene as a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differing or conflicting provisions to produce a unified bill or the draft General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021.
Senator Cynthia Villar, who sponsored the proposed DA budget, pointed out that the DA must focus on addressing poverty in rural areas which is compounded by the challenges brought about by climate change and lack of technology and mechanization.
“We need to come up with creative and innovative solutions in improving the situation and make better the lives of farmers and fisherfolk. Our rural and agriculture development should be inclusive, resilient and sustainable in all sectors of agriculture—in crops, livestock, poultry, fisheries, high-value crops and coconut,” Villar said.
Almost three-fourths or P60.9 billion of the 2021 DA proposed budget is allocated to the Office of the Secretary, which includes funding for seven commodity banner programs, bureaus, central and regional field offices, as well as locally-funded and foreign-assisted projects.
The proposed respective budget for the banner programs follows: rice (P15.5 billion), corn (P1.5 billion), high-value crops (P1.6 billion), livestock (P1.17 billion), fisheries (P3.12 billion), organic agriculture (P665 million), and halal (P23.9 million).
Earlier, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Manager Raul Montemayor said the DA should first focus on helping farmers and fisherfolk, who were hit by three successive strong typhoons over the past weeks, recover.
This, as he thinks that the impact of these recent typhoons, especially Ulysses and Rolly, to the farm sector will be felt by the sector’s stakeholders up until next year.
“Definitely, the typhoons will have a significant effect on production both now and in the next production cycle. It will take time for the floods to recede and for farmers to repair their dikes and farms before they can start planting again,” Montemayor said earlier.
“And it is not only the crops that have been damaged, but also their houses, farm machineries and other assets, and their other sources of income and livelihood,” he added.
For his part, Asis Perez, convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan, said the government must act fast to be able to help fishermen hit by the typhoons get back on their feet.
This was after Lagonoy Gulf Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (IFARMC) Chair Arnel Boholst said that because of northeast monsoon or amihan, which normally brings strong waves, January and February will be a “critical period” for fishermen.
Lagonoy Gulf is a large gulf in the Bicol Peninsula of Luzon. During the past typhoons, particularly Rolly and Ulysses, nearly 2,000 boats in Lagonoy Gulf alone were damaged.