Filipinos ‘must learn to eat concrete’ if gov’t continues to deny DA more budget, Lower House told

Published February 18, 2021, 9:06 PM

by Ben Rosario

While health officials take steps to get the Philippines a good share of life-saving vaccines against the dreaded novel coronavirus disease (COViD-19),  the country’s agricultural experts are similarly pursuing  moves to access vaccines being developed against the African Swine Flu (ASF).

Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar (Department of Agriculture – Philippines / FACEBOOK / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

During a joint committee hearing in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, February 16, Agriculture Secretary William Dar has aired optimism that the ASF plague will end soon with the development of a vaccine 

Also during the hearing, leaders of the agricultural urged government to stop scrimping on the budgetary needs of the Department of Agriculture.

“We appeal to give consideration of putting our money where our mouth is.  If we are not going to change budgetary priorities, we must then learn to eat concrete roads and bridges,” said Danny Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of  Agriculture and Food Inc. 

Dar agreed with Fausto’s views but stressed the significance of addressing the current pork crisis affecting Luzon. 

“We see light at the end of the tunnel in this aspect.  The vaccine is a silver lining for repopulation,” Dar said during a recent hearing conducted jointly by the House Committee on Agriculture and Food Security and Committee on Trade.

While waiting for the vaccine, Dar said the Department of Agriculture has scheduled a food security summit that would gather all stakeholders in agriculture and fishery to arrive at more permanent solutions that will address the shortage of meat products, vegetable and rice.

“Sintibay ng abaka ang aking paniniwala na sa palitan ng kaalaman, opinyon at rekomendasyon sa food security summit, malaki ang pag-asa na magkakaroon tayo ng magandang solusyon sa problema (Like the strength  of abaca, I believe that in the t exchange of expertise, ideas and recommendations during the food security summit, there is hope for a good solution to our problems),” said Dar.

Fausto said the issues faced by the agriculture industry can be traced by the failure of government to extend to the sector the budgetary requirement it needed.

“We have appealed to Congress to give consideration to increase the DA budget.  Instead of the P450 billion it proposed, it only got P90 billion,” Fausto stated.

Fausto is perplexed by the fact that while livestock and poultry are contributing one-third of the country’s food requirement, only a “small chunk” of the DA budget went to these sectors.

Reacting to Fausto’s statements, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the PCFI leader was wrong in blaming Congress for the measly allocation the DA receives annually.

“Nanggagaling ang mga budget proposal sa ehekutibo. Maliit lamang ang ibinibigay para sa agrikultura. (Budget proposals come from the executive department.  The budget it gives the agricultural sector is small),” Zarate pointed out.