Pangilinan: Bigger agriculture budget would ease hunger, save jobs

September 9, 2021

A BIGGER agriculture budget, especially during the pandemic, would ease hunger and save jobs, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Thursday, noting that the massive cut in the Department of Agriculture (DA) budget despite the sector having suffered from the African swine fever and substantial job losses.

“Ang ating industriya ng magbababoy, nawalan ng halos 100 bilyong piso noong isang taon dahil sa ASF. Samantala, ang budget para sa agrikultura sa 2022 ay P72 billion lamang. Kulang na kulang (Our hog industry lost almost 100 billion pesos last year due to ASF. The 2022 budget for agriculture is only P72 billion. That is really very meager),” he said.

“Makakatulong ang mas mataas na budget ng agrikultura upang masiguro na hindi magugutom ang ating mga kababayan at masasalba ang mga trabaho sa sektor ng agrikultura (A bigger agriculture budget would help ensure that our people won’t go hungry and jobs in the sector would be saved),” he added.

The government economic team is currently briefing the Senate on the proposed 2022 national budget. The budget proposal from the DA of about P250 billion was slashed to P72 billion for DA and its attached agencies. As this includes the budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) the remainder of P72 billion is DA’s budget.

When Pangilinan asked for a clarification on the DA budget cut, Undersecretary Tina Canda of the Department of Budget Management (DBM) said that the DA was unable to comply with the requirements for the evaluation of its requested budget. The DBM said that justifications for each DA program were not submitted to the DBM.

At the briefing, Economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, citing a June-July survey, said the agriculture sector lost over a million jobs or about half of the jobs lost during the period.

Pangilinan, who was Secretary of Food Security and Agricultural Modernization in the Aquino administration, said given this, government should focus on the agriculture.

“Kalahati nung nawalan ng trabaho ay galing sa agri sector so dapat naman mabigyan ng kaukulang pansin sa budget yung pagsuporta sa kanila (Half of those who lost their jobs came from the agriculture sector so it should receive a proportional budget attention),” he said.

Pangilinan asserts that government must be strategic in securing food for 110 million Filipinos, and increasing the budget of the Department of Agriculture should be one of the basic steps.

“Eventually we should have maybe double, triple, or quadruple the agriculture budget over a period of maybe 5, 6 years kasi talagang napapag-iwanan (because it’s left behind),” he said.

“I remember I manifested this before. During my first term in the Senate, the budget for infrastructure combined was about P200 billion. Today it’s over a trillion in a span of maybe 10-15 years. This is DOTR and DPWH. Mahalaga ang infrastructure pero mas mahalaga ang pagkain. So sana strategically pagka hinihingi yung P250 billion, eh wag naman sana P72 billion lang ang ibigay,” he added.