Group bats for P15,000 subsidy for farmers, fishermen

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) has batted for a P15,000-subsidy for farmers and fishermen following the approval the House of Representatives on second reading the proposed Bayanihan 3, the government's third economic stimulus package.

In a statement, the KMP called out the House of Representatives for approving Bayanihan 3, which did not particularly set aside cash aid and daily wage relief for agricultural workers.

Bayanihan 3 or “Bayanihan to Arise as One” is a P401-billion stimulus package for the Philippine economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest version of the bill provides around P30 billion for the agri-fishery sector in various forms of assistance, but it was not specified if the allocation includes a financial subsidy for small farmers and fishermen. KMP said Congress should seriously consider granting farmers P100-daily wage emergency relief, the P10,000 cash aid, and the P15,000 agricultural production subsidy for the third and final reading of the bill.

Earlier, the House committee on appropriations rejected proposal for a P100 daily wage emergency relief allowance for workers and a P15,000 agricultural production subsidy for farmers and fishers. The Makabayan bloc made the proposal during the period of amendments in the House plenary deliberations Tuesday, March 25.

Justifying the proposed P15,000 agricultural production subsidy, KMP said the amount is very much needed to aid farmers to continue with their farming activities because production costs have unbearably increased — farm inputs like seeds, fertilizer, and pesticide continue to increase, water pump use, and farm machinery rental are affected by weekly fuel price hikes. The rising inflation also took a hard toll on the livelihood of farmers, KMP added.

“Farming and fishing subsidies are urgently needed but the Department of Agriculture (DA) can only offer loans with strict requirements under its Plant, Plant, Plant program,” according to peasant leader Danilo Ramos. The KMP leader said recurring and prolonged lockdowns have severely affected small-scale farmers who cannot sell their produce to markets and trading centers.

KMP also growled over the P30-billion proposed assistance to the agri-fishery sector as pittance when compared to the assistance to displaced and disadvantaged workers with P25 billion and the pension and gratuity fund for military uniformed personnel with much higher budget of P54.6 billion. Based on the approved bill, the P54.6 billion allotted for pension arrears of retired military uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA).

“The 30-billion support to agri-fishery is not enough and would be mostly used for loans and DA's digital agriculture program,” KMP said.

“Farmers are not even asking for pension. They are only seeking subsidies to aid their farming and food production.".