Melody M. Aguiba
February 17, 2011
MANILA, Philippines – The government is facilitating the restructuring of some P900 million worth of loan under the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) even as loan releases have been suspended due to borrowers’ default.
The Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) have already received agreement for the restructuring of the ACEF loans representing around 30 percent of total outstanding loans.
“We have formed a new ACEF committee in the department, and there are already people who responded to our letters saying they are willing to restructure their loans,” said DA Sec. Proceso J. Alcala in a press briefing during the National Summit on Agriculture and Fisheries.
The COCAFM and DA which work jointly on ACEF loans (loan releases have to be approved by the COCAFM) have temporarily suspended loan release in order to study new procedures, according to Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan. “We’re revising the policy of zero collateral and zero interest based on the data that are being submitted to us. We just knew that (many of) those that have availed of the credit do not at all come from the poorest of the poor. Instead, those that are able to borrow have profiles that show that they can borrow from banks,” said Pangilinan in the same summit being held at the Eugenio Lopez Conference Center in Antipolo, Rizal.
Since the establishment of ACEF in the 1990s, the fund has released P5 billion so far. However, the credit does not go to whom it intended to help as the ACEF originally aimed to raise competitiveness of farmers adversely affected by the import liberalization policies entered by the government with the World Trade Organization.
The government lowered the tariff on importation of agricultural crops under the Minimum Access Volume. But under the law that created ACEF, such tariff should fund competitiveness programs for poor farmers such as those coming from the corn, poultry, and livestock sectors.
Pangilinan said the COCAFM is reviewing how the poorest of the poor could be aided through ACEF. Besides, there are other programs that ACEF can fund aside from just credit.
“We hope to submit (a new policy of lending by the end of the month based on recommendations. Credit is only one area that ACEF can fund. It can be used for many areas,” he said.
Alcala and Pangilinan held this briefing as they are leading a 15-year planning session that aims to come up with a program to make the Philippines achieve a developed nation status by 2025.
By 2025, COCAFM and DA should have accomplished the following;
• All fishers and farmers will have been organized and their average age will have been 37 rather than 57 as what is the prevailing reality.
• Irrigation systems and post harvest facilities should be adequately found in agricultural production areas.
• Agriculture-focused state universities like the University of the Philippines-Los Baños or Central Luzon State University will have reached to more than 50.
• The country will have been a net exporter of agricultural products; should be rice-sufficient; should have 80 percent usage of good seeds from the prevailing 30 percent.
• The country will have been a seafood and aquamarine resource basket in Asia, and its eight million hectare idle land will have been totally reforested.
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