MANILA - The Department of Agriculture is seeking more funds after its proposed budget for 2022 was cut to P91 billion from P231 billion, its chief said Tuesday.
The agency is seeking additional funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Secretary William Dar. The allocation under the National Expenditure Program submitted to Congress was at the "same level" in previous years, he said.
"We have been looking forward for a much bigger budget because that’s the only way we can jumpstart and unleash the potential of the agriculture sector. We said this is now the time because of the pandemic, the new normal that significant allocation must be made," Dar told ANC's Headstart.
"There is resiliency of the sector if you add more budget support that can be a boost to really looking at higher outcomes at the end of the day."
The proposed budget for the agency and the P30 billion allocated to National Irrigation Administration is "just the barest minimum to sustain our response to COVID-19," Dar said.
The country's rice production in the first semester this year is the highest "in history," he said. Last year, the Philippines harvested 194 million metric tons, he added.
"It’s showing that as you support the development of the commodities industry, the outcomes are phenomenal," he said.
Next year's cash assistance to rice farmers will depend on the excess tariff collected from the Rice Tarrification Law, according to Dar.
This year, some 1.5 million rice farmers tilling 2 hectares of land and below will receive P5,000 each by the 4th quarter, he said. Farmers also receive in-kind assistance, he added.
"Next year, that will continue depending on the excess tariff that will be collected this year," he said.
Other cash assistance will be allotted in the proposed third stimulus package Bayanihan 3, according to the secretary.
"If Bayanihan 3 is possible, then as we said in earlier Bayanihans, dun namin nagawan ng paraan na magbigay ng cash and food assistance to our farmers. Ililinya po natin yan, itong Bayanihan 3 na pinaplano ng Kongreso," he said.
(If Bayanihan 3 is possible, then as we said in earlier Bayanihans, that's where we were able to give cash and food assistance to our farmers. We will line it up, the Bayanihan 3 that Congress is planning.)
The department is also proposing to transfer the oversight of the NIA under it and open it to public-private partnership, Dar said.
"You can enhance and not wait 20 years, but maybe target for next 6 years the development of national irrigation systems," he said.
The agency has decreased its target output production to 2 percent of the population growth rate, he added.