The unused funds of the Department of Agriculture (DA) could have been used to provide cash assistance to farmers and fishers seeking production subsidy since the start of the pandemic, a fisherfolk group said.
Militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas made the statement after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the DA failed to spend over P9.8 billion of its P59-billion budget allocation for 2020.
According to the group, at least 653,000 farmers and fishers could have been aided with a P15,000 production subsidy from the Agriculture department’s multi-billion unspent budget.
“The production subsidy that the we have been seeking could have stimulated the production of more than 600,000 rural-based food producers,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said in a statement.
“This also means that unstable food supply and prices in the market could have been avoided if only the government heeded the demand of the country’s food security front liners for livelihood subsidy and aid,” he added.
The fishers’ group said they have been seeking a P15,000 subsidy for livelihood and production expenses of the marginalized fisherfolk and farmers amid the onslaught of the pandemic.
It said that the agricultural production subsidy for fishers will be apportioned mostly for fuel expenses which eat up almost 80 percent of a regular fishing trip.
In response to the COA report, Agriculture Secretary William Dar asserted that no irregularities were committed despite the recent findings of state auditors.
“We assure our countrymen that since we assumed office in August 2019, we have not committed any irregularities at the ‘OneDA Family’ as we continue to strongly implement a ‘No to Corruption’ policy,” Dar said.