Manila, Philippines — The billions of unused funds by the Department of Agriculture (DA) last year were crucial to the struggling farmers and fisherfolks in the midst of a public health and economic crisis, according to the militant fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Wednesday.
Citing the study of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on the 2020 Commission on Audit (COA) report, the progressive farmers’ group revealed that at least P9.8 billion or 17% of DA’s total P59.1 billion budget was unused and returned to the National Treasury.
“The unspent funds could have addressed the worsening plight of our rural sectors enduring the onslaught of the pandemic since last year. The budget is very crucial to the rural sectors especially this was the year when aside from the government’s burdening pandemic response, natural calamities including typhoons devastated fishing and farming communities. Furthermore, farmers and fishers bear the brunt of the government’s neglect as they have limited to no access to health services and production subsidies,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.
“The DA owes it to the farmers and fishers to explain these irregularities of the budget supposedly for the welfare of our food producers. This is tantamount to state abandonment of the country’s food security frontliners,” Hicap added.
Lastly, PAMALAKAYA lauded the COA for carrying out its mandate of monitoring and auditing funds of government agencies involved in the pandemic response.
“The irregularities on funds revealed by the COA manifests the Duterte government’s legacy of bureaucratic corruption. This signifies that we really can’t trust a superbly corrupt administration to properly use public funds in the face of the widespread suffering and misery of the people brought about by the pandemic. We support our state auditors on its anti-corruption drive and hope that they would continue to monitor and audit unscrupulous government agencies for the sake of national interest and transparency,” ended Hicap. ###