With a record first semester yield of 8.8 million metric tons (MMT) this year, the country expects to harvest an all-time high of 20.4 MMT, topping last year’s bumper crop of 19.4 MMT.
“We want to replicate what we did in rice with the rest of the agri-fishery sector, particularly in emerging commodities where we have comparative advantage,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, during the deliberations of the DA’s proposed 2022 budget, conducted by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations.
“We, therefore, seek sustained investments in rice, and increasing budgetary support for corn, high-value crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries,” Dar appealed.
“Our success in rice is only one among the stellar growth areas that kept the agriculture sector’s contraction in the first semester of 2021 to a mere 0.7 percent (%), despite the downward pull of the livestock subsector,” the agriculture chief said before the House appropriations committee, chaired by ACT-CIS Rep Eric Go Yap.
On Go’s behalf, Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma (Nueva Vizcaya) and Rep. Teodorico Haresco, Jr. (Aklan, 2nd Dist.) chaired and moderated the six-hour budget hearing.
“We can still multiply the export potentials of Philippine mangoes, coconuts, pineapple, sugarcane, and milkfish.”
“We can still multiply the export potentials of Philippine mangoes, coconuts, pineapple, sugarcane, and milkfish. We have made a name on the world stage through these exports, and we all know it takes deep resources to uphold world-class stature,” the agriculture head explained.
“We infused research for development, a previously ignored area, with heavy funding to develop value-added products for export markets, particularly coconut and banana,” he added.
In terms of investments in agriculture, Dar shared his wish that the Philippines be at par with its ASEAN neighbors, as several of them allot a big share as a percentage of their national budget, underscoring that “their respective agriculture sectors became their springboard for industrialization”.
For instance, he said Vietnam devotes 6.5% of its national budget to the agri-fishery sector, while Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have invested 3.4, 3.6, and 2.3%, respectively.
In comparison, “we in the Philippines only allot 1.6% of our national budget to the agriculture sector. Hence, we have a lot of catching up to do,” Dar said.
“Despite the said investment, the sector showed its resilience, as it continues to serve as a major source of economic growth amid the pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dar thanked several legislators, as they suggested increasing the proposed DA 2022 budget by P30 billion, led by Magsasaka Partylist Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat, who said that, “the 11.5-percent increase in the national budget should be reflected in the budget allocation for the agri-fishery sector”.
Other Congressmen who supported the move were: Deogracias Victor Savellano (Ilocos Sur, 1st Dist); Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City, 2nd Dist); Tyrone Agabas (Pangasinan, 6th Dist.); and Ron Salo (KABAYAN Partylist).
“Increased investments are well and good, but it is in increasing productivity levels and diversification that we will find our footing and transition towards a more vibrant agri-based food manufacturing industry and our uncontested name in export markets,” Dar said.
“Our investments should no longer be tied up in increasing production in traditional growth areas. That much is clear in the 18 key strategies we outlined in our ‘OneDA Reform Agenda’ and the food systems framework we had embraced,” he added.
“Further, we are continuing to fight the African Swine Fever (ASF), and gearing up for the recovery of the hog sector. We have been dogged in our pursuit of the development and trial of a vaccine, and repopulation of the industry,” Dar explained.
“With the implementation of the “Mandanas-Garcia Ruling” in 2022, we urge the local government units (LGUs) to allot a respectable budget to implement their respective agricultural development programs,” he added.
“For instance, we encourage them to strongly support the implementation of the Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Systems or PAFES, that institutionalizes and strengthens our partnership with them,” Dar said.
In addition, the DA will continue to digitize and expand enrollments in the national farmers’ registry or the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).
“It is our good fortune to serve the government at such a difficult time.”
In closing, he said: “It is our good fortune to serve the government at such a difficult time. I humbly ask you — the Honorable Members of the House of Representatives — to consider our proposed 2022 strategies, plans and budget, for we are confident we are doing right by our expanded base of stakeholders: the farmers, fishers, consumers, entrepreneurs, and other industry partners in the Philippine food systems.”