Manila, Philippines — At least 653, 000 farmers and fishers could have been aided with a P15, 000 production subsidy from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) P9.8 billion unspent 2020 budget, which the rural sectors have been demanding since the start of the pandemic, according to the national fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) on Monday.
The peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in its study on the 2020 Commission on Audit (COA) report revealed that P9.8 billion or 17% of the DA’s P59 billion budget last year was unused and returned to the National Treasury.
In a statement, PAMALAKAYA said that along with rural-based progressive groups, they have been seeking a P15, 000 subsidies intended for livelihood and production expenses to “pump-prime the wheels of production” of the marginalized fisherfolks and farmers amid the onslaught of the pandemic accompanied by burdensome quarantine restrictions.
The fishers’ group said that the agricultural production subsidy for fishers will be apportioned mostly for fuel expenses which eat up almost 80% of a regular fishing trip.
“The production subsidy that we have been seeking could have stimulated the production of more than 600, 000 rural-based food producers. This also means that unstable food supply and prices in the market could have been avoided if only the government heeded the demand of the country’s food security front liners for livelihood subsidy and aid,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.
The fishers’ group reiterated that the DA should explain to the public the “irregularities” of the budget supposedly for the welfare of farmers and fishers. Moreover, PAMALAKAYA urged the DA to “make the most” of its remaining budget for the year to strengthen agricultural and fisheries production in a form of production subsidies.
“Apart from the explanation, the DA is morally and mandatorily compelled to strengthen local food production via support on farmers and fishers to ensure domestic food security amid the public health crisis,” added Hicap.
The production subsidy proposal was already filed by the Makabayan bloc in congress under House Bill 9192. ###