Press Release
November 18, 2016

Villar says 2017 budget of the Department of Agriculture
to address barriers to competitiveness

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the P50.5-billion proposed budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for year 2017 was crafted to address the barriers that hinder competitiveness of farmers and fisherfolks.

Villar, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, presided over the budget hearing of DA and its attached agencies under Finance Subcommittee "E", and was tasked to defend the budget in plenary.

"I am pleased to say that we have high expectations that the budget of DA next year will address the barriers that hinder Filipino farmers and fisherfolks from being more competitive and to increase their income," Villar said.

"We have taken into consideration that the agriculture sector has had to contend with tougher competition with the opening or reintegration to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) since last year and on top of that, climate change issues," she added.

Villar said studies have identified the factors that affect competitiveness of Filipino farmers as the lack of technical expertise, inadequate access to socialized credit, lack of mechanization and financial literacy.

"Thus, the objective of the 2017 budget of the DA is to increase competitiveness of farmers and fisherfolks by bringing down production cost and mechanization," Villar said.

The lady senator said the proposed budget allocated P2 billion for free irrigation fees, provisions for farm mechanization through the shared facilities program, and improvement of farmers' technology, among others.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation budget nearly doubled from this year's P1.6 billion to P2.5 billion to fund the subsidy for insurance premium of subsistence farmers and fisherfolks.

Villar also stressed that the proposed budget for next year includes funding for recently-enacted laws, which she authored. This will enable the laws to deliver on its promised benefits to the intended beneficiaries in the agriculture sector.

The Sugarcane Industry Development Act or Republic Act (RA) 10659 provided an annual budget for the sugar farmers. RA 10654 or the Amendment to the Fisheries Code will give our fisherfolks, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), additional sources of funding support through increased penalties against illegal fishing.

In addition, the extension of the period of implementation of the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) up to 2022, under RA 10848, will take effect in this budget.

As stated in the law, 80 percent of the fund will be extended as a form of credit to farmers' cooperatives; 10 percent as grants for research and development; and 10 percent for a comprehensive and attractive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education, to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education.

"Hopefully the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act shall be passed this year to provide funding support to raise the income of our coconut farmers, who remain one of the poorest in our country," Villar said.

Villar also said she looks forward to the implementation of the P21-billion program that will allow Filipino farmers to produce the rice requirement for the 4.5 million household-beneficiaries of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

"Our 4Ps program should really be tied with agricultural programs, since 40 percent of 11.8 million farmers and fisherfolks are living below the poverty line. If we can reduce the number of poor people in agriculture, then we can reduce poverty in the Philippines," Villar said.

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