Press Release
December 1, 2015


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the grim growth data of the agriculture sector requires drastic steps from the government if it wanted to lick poverty, after recent official figures showed that the industry hardly grew last quarter.

Citing figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA), Escudero said it was disheartening to know that agriculture, the country's third major sector, measly added 0.03 percent to the 6-percent expansion of the Philippine economy in the third quarter.

"If we look deeper into the contribution of the agriculture sector, it is dismaying to note that it had nothing to add to the economic growth. But what is more distressing is that the growth target for agriculture, along with forestry, was pegged at zero," said Escudero, who is leading all nationwide voter preference surveys for vice president.

Lumped together under the "Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing" sector, the PSA reported a growth of 0.4 percent. But this figure represented a rosier number compared to the negative growth registered in the third quarter of 2014.

"The numbers should make us stop, think seriously and prepare to act with the larger picture in mind. Note that the agriculture sector has 28 percent of the country's employed labor force as opposed to the sectors of services at 55.5 and industry at 16.5 percent," the veteran senator pointed out.

He added: "Significantly, the agricultural sector accounts for 60 percent of the country's poor. The government must understand sincerely that poverty is alarmingly and significantly felt by the agriculture sector."

Escudero blamed government underspending in the agriculture industry for the lackluster performance of the sector.

"Taun-taon naman tayo binabagyo at taun-taon din naman tayo may El Nino ngunit hindi gumagalaw ang Department of Agriculture (DA) para maibsan ang mga mga hamon na ito na madalas kinakaharap ng ating mga magsasaka. Teka-teka na nga sa pagtugon sa pangangailangan ng sektor, ayaw pang ilabas ang pondo na nararapat sa magsasaka," he said.

Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, has been pushing for the quick and timely release of the P89-billion farm budget for 2015 to boost the agriculture sector and increase the household income of farmers.

Under this year's spending program, the DA has a budget of P51.7 billion and another P37.3 billion combined budget for the National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA) and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

Among the major programs of the agriculture department include irrigation for 54,954 hectares, P22.3 billion; farm-to-market roads, P15.2 billion; assorted fishery infrastructure, P1.3 billion; farm mechanization, 4.2 billion; support activities to boost rice production, P7 billion; and coconut production, P4.1 billion.

As of September 30 this year, the DA has only released 62 percent of its budget. In 2014, the unobligated fund of the department was at P12.56 billion as per record of the Department of Budget and Management.

"This is precisely the reason why economic growth impacts lightly on the agriculture sector, which is host to a big number of the country's poor. Money should be released to farmers without delay so they are not left behind," Escudero said.

"Unless, we grow meaningfully and substantially in the agricultural sector, the government's programs on poverty alleviation will remain unappreciated," he added.

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