Gov’t favors budget for repression over food production — farmers

The Duterte government is not prioritizing agriculture and its potential in boosting the local economy amid the worsening crisis brought about the pandemic.

KMP said the budget for agriculture for 2021 is a very meager 1.5% of the total proposed budget of P4.506-trillion, as compared to the 4.6% allotted for defense, 4.2% for public order jointly regarded as ‘Generals’ Pork’ and a whopping 12.4% for debt servicing.

“The government is just paying lip-service on its objective of attaining food security and economic recovery. The budget for repression and fascism is way larger than the budget for food production and social services,” according to farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Proposed budget for 2021 Agriculture and Agrarian Reform – P142 billion Defense and Public Order – P508 billion Infrastructure and Build, Build Build – P1.1 trillion Debt Servicing – P451 billion “Year after year, the Duterte administration is pegging chronically low budget for agriculture and prioritizing the funding of systemic repression, graft-ridden infrastructure, and debt servicing over social services and agriculture.

KMP noted that the agriculture budget steadily declined under Duterte, reaching its lowest level last year since the Ramos administration.

PH agriculture’s contribution or share to the national economy have been steadily declining in recent years.

From 14% in 2015, it further plummeted to 9% under the Duterte administration.

For two consecutive years, agriculture has registered a zero-percentage growth. For the first quarter of 2020, agriculture posted a 1.2 percent decline.

It managed to grow by 0.5 percent in the second quarter, but it still did not surpass the zero-percentage growth.

“We find this situation very alarming. It is even more unfortunate that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is feigning ignorance on the real state of the domestic agriculture and farmers,” says KMP chairperson emeritus and former agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano.

“The chronic decline in agriculture is reflected in the continued lack of government priority, declining budget allocation for national programs for food production, and the plethora of neoliberal policies espoused by the agri department.

From P89-billion budget in 2015, the current budget is P62.3-billion. Agriculture budget under Duterte at a glance: (Based on GAA Total New Appropriations) 2016 P48.4 billion 2017 P45.2 billion 2018 P53.3 billion 2019 P47.2 billion 2020 P62.3 billion In 2019, the DA’s budget was decreased due to poor spending performance in the past years, which was at 55.1% in 2017 and 66.2% in 2018. For fiscal year 2021, the agency’s budget is 17% lower than its total budget for this year of P79.9 billion, and 23 percent off the agency’s budget proposal of P86.3 billion.

Increase and prioritize agri budget A total budget of P142.5 billion is provided for agriculture and agrarian reform for 2021.

Some P66.4 was earmarked for DA while the national programs for food production have the following allocation: P15.7 billion for rice; P3.5 billion for corn; P1.2 billion for livestock, P3.5 billion for fisheries, and P520 million for organic agriculture. Irrigation projects will get a total of P5.4 billion while P12. 1 billion will go to the Rice Competetiveness Enchancement Program.

“We are all for the increase of the agriculture budget. The entire agri budget should be allocated to food production, attaining food security, and ensuring the economic welfare and livelihood of our food producers — farmers and fisherfolk,” Mariano said.

“However, the DA is funding programs and projects that are not attuned to the actual demands and needs of farmers and consumers,” Mariano added, referring to DA’s market-oriented Plant, Plant, Plant program and the business-centric Digital Agriculture heavily promoted by the agency.

KMP will continue to lobby for an additional budget for agriculture and food production, and the rescinding of the Rice Liberalization Law which resulted in a P85-billion loss for rice farmers in 2019.