Press Release
October 21, 2009


Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday reiterated that poverty and hunger can be eradicated if government allocated more funds for agriculture that directly supports 40 percent of the population.

In 2002, the Department of Agriculture (DA) received 2.4 percent of the national budget. By 2005, its share had declined to 1.6 percent. In 2008, the DA got 2 percent, or P1.27T of that year's budget. This year, its allocation is about 3 percent, or P41.2B of the national budget of P1.414T.

"Laws have been passed mandating spending for agriculture and these should be implemented by the current administration," Escudero noted at the Leadership Forum sponsored by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines and the United Nations Development Program on the Millennium Development Goals that was aired on Tuesday on ANC.

He said one of them, Republic Act 8435 (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act), prescribes measures to modernize the two sectors to enhance their profitability and prepare them for the challenges of globalization thru the delivery of support services and appropriation of funds.

And yet, while the country is predominantly agricultural, data from the National Statistical Coordination Board indicates that government has failed to improve the lives of farmers and fishermen, since they remain two of the most marginalized sectors of society, with poverty incidences of 44 percent and 49.9 percent, respectively.

Escudero also noted that one of the biggest challenges faced by many Filipinos is rising food prices that are bound to spill over to the prices of other goods.

"It is a fact that 52 percent of the average family household income monthly is spent on food," the 40-year-old lawmaker said.

"We must spend on agriculture if we want to change the lives of our people dependent on it for their livelihood and to lower the cost of food so that people can lead better lives, eat better and perhaps avoid hunger."

Escudero said declining government support for agriculture is also underscored by the fact that current irrigated land totals 1.38 million hectares, which is down from 1.4 million hectares in 1986.

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