Press Release
October 16, 2012

Transcript of Press Briefing
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
After the Committee on Finance's hearing on the Department of Agriculture's 2013 budget

On the DA's budget

The Committee on Finance heard the budget of the DA which in 2013 will be P74.987 billion, a 22-percent increase over the 2012 level of P61.4 billion. By and large, we found the performance of the DA to be satisfactory. The DA sector is a very important sector of our economy employing about 12.7 million workers in the farm sector and contributes about 15% of our GDP. The agriculture sector registered a positive growth of 2.46% in 2011. But what concerns us is the negative growth of the fisheries sector. All the sectors have recorded growth: crop, livestock and poultry. But the fisheries sector has been contracting for the last 10 quarters since 2010. In 2010, it had a negative growth of 4%; in 2011, 2.8%; in the first six months of 2012, 3.3%. This is alarming because 18% of our agriculture is contributed by the fisheries sector. This speaks out like a sore thumb in the otherwise good performance of the agriculture sector. We have emphasized to the Secretary to please review the thrust of the fisheries sector. They have committed that we will see positive growth in 2014 from a negative growth in 2010, in 2011, and as expected, in 2012.

Another matter is the continuous burden of the National Food Authority on the national government. in June of 2010 when the Aquino government took over, the total liability of NFA stood at P176.8 billion. This has been reduced, as of today, to P147.4 billion. But it was noted that as of the end of December 2009, the total liability of the NFA was only P147.5 billion. In six months, from January 1 to June 30 of 2010, the liability of the NFA grew to P176.8 billion, or an increase in six months of P23 billion which was the same increase in the whole year from 2008 to 2009. What is significant about the first six months? Noong panahon ng eleksyon lumobo ang utang ng NFA sa mahigit P23 billion. This continues to be a burden that this administration has to carry. The Secretary has assured us that it be addressed. The borrowing guarantee is indicated at P21.6 billion in 2013.

On the Sin Tax Bill vis-à-vis Senator Recto's resignation

There are three possible scenarios. Number 1, Senator Recto will change his mind about the irrevocable resignation. If he does not, then that leaves the Senate two choices. Either to designate the vice chairman as the acting chairman in the meantime that no regular chairman has been elected, or a new chairman can be elected.

The committee report can stand. It can be the basis for the debates. In the period of amendments, the amendments can be introduced. In fact, if you look at the report, I indicated in my signature that I will amend because my agreement with Senator Recto is that even if I did not agree with his conclusion and his rates, we agreed that the vice chairman of the committee will submit to the floor the amendments at the appropriate time. As Senator Escudero pointed out yesterday, the withdrawal of the report would need the concurrence of the committee or the plenary. I think the public interest will dictate that we maintain the committee report, and we debate on it and at the appropriate time, we submit the amendments. We do not have to start from scratch.

Yes, closer to P60 billion (Drilon's proposed revenue).

Our target (Sin Tax bill's passage) is mid November, but if worse comes to worst, we can extend it a bit. We will try to get it in November; but if not, we have no choice.

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