By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loaning program, which was marked by corruption and issues in the previous years, is now being offered again by the Philippine government to the stakeholders of agriculture and fisheries, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.
ACEF is a grant program of the Philippine national government that is meant to increase the productivity of agricultural and fisheries producers through the provision of loans to competitiveness-enhancing projects, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
However, a year from its actual implementation in 2000, the ACEF program was suspended by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) because of several issues such as low loan repayment rayes and poor loan accessibility performance.
“From the start of its actual implementation in 2000, ACEF has been plagued by various problems which may have significantly derailed the attainment of its objectives. Among the earlier reported limitations of the program were its weak identification of strategic investment areas to benefit the most vulnerable agricultural sectors, lack of a monitoring system to ensure the availability and timely release of funds, and absence of impact assessment to determine the contribution of the fund to the competitiveness agenda,” a report from Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) further said.
On Tuesday, Piñol said the “new ACEF Loaning Program” is now ready for implementation, with an inital budget of R4 billion.
According to him, it was launched following a thorough review and modification by the Senate Committee on Agriculture under Senator Cynthia Villar imposing only a 2 percent interest per annum.
Under the program, a maximum of P1 million can be borrowed by individual borrowers and P5 million for associations and cooperatives.
The fund will be managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines under the supervision of an Executive Committee headed by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Members of the Executive Committee include representatives from the Agriculture Committees of the Senate and Congress, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Land Bank of the Philippines, and farmers and fishermen groups.
Under the new ACEF Loaning Program, the applicants will have to deal directly with Land Bank.
Once implemented, ACEF loans could only be used for projects in agriculture and fisheries, including post-harvest and processing facilities.
The DA will organize teams in every province which will assist the applicants, especially poor farmers, groups and cooperatives, in preparing the documents to be submitted to the bank, Piñol said.
Piñol said the decision to bring back ACEF means that fishermen’s groups, who have been asking for the establishment of small ice-making equipment in their communities, could now avail of this loan to put up the facility, including cold storage.
Farmers, on the other hand, could also avail of the loan to buy farm tractors, rice-corn combine harvesters and other equipment to improve their productivity.