Re­view of Sida fund uti­liza­tion pushed; di­rect bud­get turnover starts this year

Sun Star Bacolod - - Business - BY ERWIN P. NICAVERA

QUE­ZON CITY — Sugar in­dus­try stake­hold­ers in the coun­try has called on the gov­ern­ment to re­view the uti­liza­tion of the Sugar In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Act (Sida) fund amid con­cerns on a bud­get cut due to un­der­spend­ing.

The move is part of the res­o­lu­tions passed and sub­mit­ted by stake­hold­ers to Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol dur­ing the con­clu­sion of the Su­gar­cane In­dus­try Stake­hold­ers’ Sum­mit at the Bureau of Soils and Wa­ter Man­age­ment Con­ven­tion Hall here yes­ter­day.

Piñol said the stake­hold­ers felt that the divi­sion of Sida fund is not ap­pro­pri­ate needs.

The stake­hold­ers also asked for pos­si­ble amend­ment of the Sida law. They cited that the P500 mil­lion bud­get for re­search can be used for di­rect farm in­ter­ven­tions.

“The bud­get has not to their been fully uti­lized, from P2 bil­lion it was re­duced to P500 mil­lion be­cause of slow uti­liza­tion,” he said, adding that the farm­ers are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties on ac­cess­ing the fund through the Land Bank of the Philip­pines (LBP).

Based on the data pre­sented dur­ing the sum­mit, the dis­burse­ment and uti­liza­tion rate of Sida fund was only at 66 per­cent as of De­cem­ber 2018.

The low­est ac­com­plish­ment rate was noted in so­cial­ized credit, at only one per­cent.

Farm-to-mill road and in­fra­struc­ture posted 82 per­cent ac­com­plish­ment rate; block farm 78 per­cent; re­search, de­vel­op­ment and ex­ten­sion - 68 per­cent; and schol­ar­ships - an av­er­age of 91 per­cent.

For the DA’S level, the agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary said he would like the Sugar Reg­u­la­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion (SRA) to im­ple­ment di­rect fund turnover start­ing this year.

Un­der the mea­sure, in­stead of bid­ding the ma­chiner­ies like trac­tors, the fund will be turned over to the farm­ers guided by the agency-es­ti­mate cost.

The fund will be re­leased di­rectly to the farm­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions, who will then buy the equip­ment with­out pass­ing through the gov­ern­ment bid­ding.

The same mea­sure will be adopted for farm in­puts like fer­til­iz­ers, Piñol said.

Piñol said he was shocked to know dur­ing the sum­mit that the fer­til­izer sup­port fund for Ca­gayan Val­ley sugar farm­ers has been al­lo­cated since 2016 yet sub­ject to bid­ding un­til now.

“If that is the case, we are de­priv­ing the peo­ple of ser­vices from the gov­ern­ment,” he added.

It can be re­called that Sida was cre­ated in 2015 to boost the pro­duc­tion of su­gar­cane and sugar, and in­crease the in­come of su­gar­cane farm­ers or planters and farm work­ers.*

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