MANILA - Agriculture stakeholders decried the use by corrupt officials of the underdevelopment of the local industry as their convenient excuse to steal public funds.
In a collective declaration, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said: “Billions of pesos that could have been used to increase farm productivity, build new irrigation systems, farm-to-market-roads, post-harvest equipment and facilities like slaughter houses and cold storage warehouses, marketing infrastructure, retraining and extension services and other forms of public sector assistance, were instead pocketed by politicians of all shades and color in cahoots with erring public officials.”
SINAG is composed of more than 30 groups of rice, corn and vegetable farmers and traders, pork, livestock and poultry producers, aqua-venture groups and fertilizer and pesticide suppliers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The stakeholders said they formed the alliance to express their disgust over alleged unabated smuggling, unfavorable policies, and plunder of government funds in the name of farmers, local agri producers and allied industries.
The group said they will now observe and scrutinize the actions of various government agencies to ensure their actions will favor the public.
Their task includes combating smuggling and ensuring food safety and inspection services on imported food and agriculture produce.
The group said they will also focus on an “agriculture strategy of local food production to ensure that more food is grown where it is needed.”
As such, the group opposes the “wanton and unwarranted grants of tax holidays and other incentives to giant foreign companies like Charoen Pokphand (CP), New Hope and similar entities.”
Sinag also said they will call for the conversion of the remaining Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) amounting to P8 billion to P10 billion into a grant for common service facilities (post-harvest facilities, dryers, warehouses, silos, cold storage facilities, slaughterhouses, among others) and anti-smuggling efforts under strict and transparent implementation/guidelines by a joint public-private sector initiative.