$100-M aid to Mindanao proposed
MANILA --- Agriculture Secretary William Dar said there is an ongoing discussion with the World Bank (WB) for some $100 million intended for the development of agriculture in Mindanao.
“We have an ongoing discussion with the World Bank for a USD100 million for Mindanao,” Dar said in his speech during the turn-over of DA leadership held at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in Quezon City.
“We will pour more resources and implement more projects in Mindanao (as it) is not getting the right investment and budget based on what they are contributing to the economy,” he said.
“We will go to that level where they are now contributing to the economy, ibabalik din natin yung kaakibat na (we will giveback appropriate) budget and investments sa (to) Mindanao,” he added.
Dar said the DA will work closely with his predecessor, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Emmanuel Piñol, for the development of agriculture in Mindanao.
Dar likewise disclosed that the National Food Authority (NFA) was allocated with PHP7 billion for its rice procurement.
“I hope this will be properly used,” he said.
Dar said he will also work with the NFA to address the current low price of palay to the detriment of rice farmers.
“NFA should accelerate the buying, processing, and marketing of NFA rice. Don’t be stuck up on buffer stocking, you buy and sell via existing guidelines,” he added.
However, Dar said there are existing guidelines that needs to be amended.
He said it is also imperative to review the price of palay to a “medium level” to address the discrepancy in the price of the food staple.
As such, Dar said he had instructed the NFA on how to further enhance what measures to be undertaken to address the discrepancy in the buying and selling of NFA rice in the market.
“It should be lower than the existing PHP37 per kilo,” he said.
The DA chief also urged the provincial governors to help in the buying of NFA rice.
“We will help the provincial governors, especially in the top 10 rice producing provinces, to link them with bank institutions so they will have resources in the procurement of rice,” he said.
As for rice farmers affected by the Rice Tariffication Law, Dar said the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) is currently drafting the implementing guidelines for the cash assistance to affected rice farmers.
“The ACPC Board will meet on Thursday evening to flesh out the operational guidelines, and roll out our version of the Pantawid Magsasaka’ Program,” he said.
Dar said the Survival and Recovery (SURE) Loan Assistance will be expanded to assist and empower affected rice farmers.
This aims to support the government’s goal of helping agricultural households in calamity-affected areas regain their capacity to earn a living, and provide immediate relief to small farmers and fisherfolk through loan and emergency assistance package.
“The cash assistance will only be a one time (thing). RCEF (Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) will be for medium and long-term plan,” he said.
There are also additional programs and projects, such as the hybrid rice technology and “catch up” plan for next season --meaning additional components of the rice program aside from RCEF such as fertilization.
“We will strengthen our quick intervention system. We will partner with LGUs (local government units) on strategic positioning of food, storage of harvested grains, and provision of needed interventions in affected areas like quick rehabilitation, and quickturn-around schemes. We will do it judiciously and sustainably,” he said.
“In all, we will build a stronger, more resilient Philippine agriculture and fishery sector, and a more productive rural economy, built on good governance, proper planning, and implementation of policies that are peopled-centered, responsive and accountable,” he added.