Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday, November 21 called on the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to expedite the disbursement of medical assistance to coconut farmers, after noting how the agency submitted its plan one year into the administration.
Cayetano said the slow disbursement has resulted in a delay in the delivery of services for coconut farmers as only two percent of the P500-million allocated for medical assistance for them was utilized.
“If your service to the poorest of the poor is not good, and your priority is supposed to be agriculture and that is your attitude what would happen to them? I feel as disgusted as my colleagues here that are asking why is it like that?” Cayetano said during the Senate plenary debate on the proposed budget of the PCA for next year.
“If your talent is just to collect funds, then you should have transferred to the LandBank of the Philippines,” he added.
PCA Administrator Ferrer Cruz attributed the delay in the utilization of the budget for medical assistance to issues with PhilHealth. According to Cruz, the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) set up by the previous administration did not match the law, which says the money should go directly to the beneficiaries, not through PhilHealth.
But when Cayetano asked him if he has submitted an alternative plan to the current administration upon noticing this issue, Cruz said he initially only requested a review and did not propose an actual plan until the first week of November this year.
The senator did not sit well with Cruz’s explanation saying he finds it too slow when the Marcos administration is already one and a half year into power.
Cayetano then urged the PCA to “step up” in addressing the concerns and needs of the agricultural sector rather than putting all the burden on the President.
The lawmaker asked the agency to submit a timeline to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to prevent future delays in delivering services to the sector.
“Let’s not waste a hundred billion pesos for services intended to coconut farmers under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” Cayetano stressed.