January 11, 2012
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, today says he and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala are finalizing guidelines that would leave no doubt that the main beneficiaries of the newly restructured Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF) would be the poor farmers and fisherfolk.
“The Department of Agriculture and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) hope to reopen the ACEF facility in the first quarter of 2012,” Pangilinan, who is also the Co-Chairman of the COCAFM, says. “The new guidelines will allocate only 30 percent for loans, while the rest will be directed toward helping poor farmers and fisherfolk in the form of grants and scholarships.”
Originally created to promote farm productivity and efficiency through enhancement initiatives, the ACEF was suspended by Pangilinan and Alcala in January 2011 as its funds had been drained by the slow pace of loan repayment.
Over the course of 10 years, most of the 8.7 billion pesos disbursed by the ACEF was in the form of loans that remain unpaid to this day.
“With the new guidelines in place, 60 percent of the ACEF will be allocated for grants and 10 percent for scholarship programs. The DA must now act aggressively against borrowers who owe the ACEF, on order for us to fulfill our goal of using the facility to help out our targeted beneficiaries.”
“The old ACEF guidelines were open to interpretation, and that could have been an opening for some unscrupulous individuals to abuse the funds. We are now trying to make it clear that the main beneficiaries should now be those looking to venture into agriculture and fisheries but who lack the competency and resources. Let’s face the facts: we need more of our countrymen to go into agriculture and fisheries as our farmers continue to age. In a few years, who will till our lands and provide us food? Agri-enterprises can always go to banking institutions. Our farmers can only go to their government for help, and the new ACEF will do just that.”