Representatives from different concerned government agencies and private sector assemble to discuss the 2017 DA’s proposed budget towards to a more competitive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector.

After comprehensive discussions at the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAF Council) meeting on the finalization of DA’s Plan and Budget proposal on April 19, 2016, the council unanimously agreed to endorse the proposed Php83.67B budget of Department of Agriculture (DA) for fiscal year 2017.

The meeting, presided by Usec. Segfredo Serrano on behalf of DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, was attended by the members from National Sectoral Committees (NSC), Agricultural Fishery Councils (AFCs), civil society organizations, non-government organizations, national government agencies, and farmers and fisherfolk groups.

The NAF Council promotes consensus on and support for national agency and LGU budgets to finance programs and projects for agricultural and fisheries modernization.

The meeting, held at DA/NAFC/LDC Conference Room in Quezon City, was undertaken primarily to finalize the proposal of the agriculture department for 2017’s more productive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector.

Director Carlos Magnaye of DA Planning and Monitoring Service presented the proposal to the members for their feedback and recommendations for its favorable outcome.

The proposed budget, which will be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), is 55.01% higher than the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Part of the DA’s thrusts and priorities for 2017 include increasing investments in rural infrastructure such as farm-to-market roads (FMR), bridges, irrigation and postharvest facilities.

The Php19.2B budget will be allocated to FMR which is Php11.8B or 160.23% higher than the allotted for this year. To establish a modern, climate- resilient, and market-oriented agri-fishery sector, DA is also increasing its funds for Philippine Rural Development Program to P9.6B.

The department is also looking to increase the budget for rice program to Php9B in anticipation of the possibility of trade liberalization. The proposed budget for livestock is Php2.5B, Php2.8B for corn, Php3.7B for high value crops, Php6.1B for fisheries and Php852 thousand for organic agriculture.

The 2017 DA target includes the provision of technical support and improved regulatory services to Food Safety Act of 2013, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management, and enhanced access to agricultural insurance, guarantee and credit.

During the meeting, some issues and concerns were raised by the members of the NAF Council.

The members stated that there is a need to examine previous projects/plans/policies (drawbacks and gains) as basis for determining future plans and programs for a more effective use of resources. Also, in relation to trade, there is a need to identify policy reforms for agriculture and fisheries, particularly on how the DA measures success.

The Committee on Climate Change recommended that the budget of the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) for 2017 be restored to its original level as proposed.

Committee on Food Staples and International Trade chairperson, Raul Montemayor reiterated that, “the DA must introduce programs, approaches and innovations for a more effective use of resources for 2017. Likewise, necessary steps should be undertaken in the preparation for rice liberalization or removal of the quantitative restrictions (QR) for rice in 2017.”

Aside from rice QR, some matters were also brought up namely: labor displacement due to mechanization, identification of suitable areas for planting rice; irrigation subsidy for rice farmers; promoting of sorghum as alternative sources of animal feed; establishment of service centers; and harmonization of roadmaps.

These concerns were ably noted by PCAF as the NAF Council’s secretariat, to be forwarded to the concerned DA offices and agencies.