DA defends Masagana program revival during House budget debates

Published September 23, 2022, 1:03 PM

by Seth Cabanban

The Department of Agriculture (DA)–through the agency’s budget sponsor in the House–has defended the revival of the “Masagana” rice harvest program, an initiative originally launched by the administration of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Representatives Bordado and Albano discuss the revival of the Masagana rice harvest program (Screencap from House of Representatives livestream)

Camarines Sur 3rd district Rep. Gabriel Bordado, during the House of plenary debate on the proposed DA budget for 2023, asked about the agency’s plans to revive the program.

“I understand that the DA is again planning to come up with ‘Masagana 150’ using certified seeds and ‘Masagana 200’ using hybrid seeds. Hindi pa ba tayo natatakot sa nangyari sa (Aren’t we scared of what happened with the) ‘Masagana 99’?” Bordado asked the DA contingent on Friday, Sept. 23.

The “Masagana 99” was initiated in 1973 shortly after the declaration of martial law. Its purpose was to address the rice shortage in the country at the time.

The program’s goal was to increase rice harvest from 40 cavans of rice per hectare to 99 cavans per hectare, thus the name.

It was halted in 1984 due to its unsustainable credit scheme. The program is said to have favored rich landowners while it offered assistance to a miniscule percentage of small farmers–reportedly only 3.7 percent of the sector–at the time.

Isabela 1st district Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano–the sponsor of the DA’s budget–defended the original Masagana 99 and its potential revival under the present administration.

“Actually, the Masagana 99 is a good program because it yielded higher rice harvests. The only problems, one of the reasons why it ended in 1984, precisely because of the rural banks. Bumagsak po sila dahil sa mga pseudo-farmers na nakalagay doon (It failed because of pseudo-farmers who were there),” Albano responded.

“This new program of this administration, by no less than the President himself, [Ferdinand] Bongbong Marcos [Jr.] will make sure that there will be no pseudo-farmers and that the banks that will give the loans will ensure that these are valid recipients so that the farmers who need money to make sure that the cost of their crops are met will actually yield in higher crop values and higher harvests,” the sponsor explained.

President Marcos Jr. is the concurrent secretary of the DA.

“With this, Masagana 99, 200, et cetera, the President’s vision here is to restore and make sure that the harvest per hectare of the crops intended for will now be given the substantial increase in budgets and aid and all the other mechanisms from the value chain from the post-harvest to the pre-harvest so that yung (the) yield and rice sufficiency will be met,” Albano added.

It was reported last July that the DA, under President Marcos Jr., is looking into the revival of the Masagana program.