By MadelaineB. Miraflor
A total of ₱31.2 billion worth of supple¬mental budget is being sought by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to implement immediate interventions on food production, availability, accessibility and affordability amid the rising cases of coro¬navirus disease 2019 (COVID- 19) in the country.
Such budget, according to DA, will be used to implement programs under the agency’s newly crafted Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra sa COVID-19 (ALPAS COVID- 19).
This, as Agriculture Secretary William Dar has been saying over the past days that “the threat of hunger is real” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dar explained that the supplemental budget proposal for ALPAS COVID-19 is in line with the mandate of the DA to “ensure a food-secure Philippines much more in time of the health emergency period.”
“With this pandemic, there is tightening of global food supply and we know that when there is not enough food, disorder is probable. While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus,” Dar said.
Of the ₱32 billion request¬ed budget, ₱7 billion will be used to increase the procure¬ment fund of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy palay from local farmers, while ₱1 billion will be set aside to upscale DA’s KADIWA ni Ani at Kita, a market¬ing strategy that directly connects the food producers to the consumers.
The ₱1-billion budget will cover production monitoring, provincial services on wheels, transportation and truck¬ing services of produce from source to the Metropolis.
The P1-billion budget will cover production monitoring, provincial services on wheels, transportation and trucking services of produce from source to the Metropolis.
Meanwhile, a total of P8.5 billion will go to the Rice Resiliency Project (RRP) following a clustering approach.
DA explained that subprojects under RRP include the Enhanced Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (P2B) for provision of fertilizer to the 947 targeted municipalities growing inbred rice; the Expanded Inbred Rice Production (P3 billion) to support advance planting during wet and dry season in non-RCEF areas in the form of seeds, fertilizer, mechanization, credit and extension; and the Expanded Rice Production in Suitable areas (P3.5 billion) to expand rice growing-areas with good irrigation.
This will be on top of the fund disbursement under Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which has a P10 billion annual budget.
The DA will also allot P1 billion for another newly designed program called Integrated Livestock and Corn Resiliency Project to enable higher production of livestock in corn producing areas, while P1 billion will be apportioned to Expanded Small Ruminants and Poultry Project, which will ensure an increase in the production of meat, chicken and eggs.
The Corn for Food Project, which seeks to intensify the production of corn in areas such as Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, will receive P500 million, while P1 billion will be allotted to the Coconut-based Diversification Project, which involves the intercropping of vegetables and fruits and raising small ruminants and poultry under coconut trees.
DA said the Urban Agriculture Project to be implemented in major urban communities will likewise get P500 million, while the Revitalized Gulayan Project will be allotted P1 billion for the implementation of the Gulayan sa Paaralan, Gulayan sa Barangay, and Gulayan in public areas and idle private lots.
For fisheries, both the Urban Aquaphonics Project and the Enhanced Aquaculture and Sustainable Capture Fisheries in Inland Waters will get P1 billion.
Financial assistance will also be granted to farmers affected by the drop in farmgate prices under the Expanded Sure Aid Recovery Project, and then there will be an increase in insurance coverage will be accorded to those growing crops and raising livestock and fisheries under the Expanded Agriculture Assistance Project.
Both projects will get P3 billion each from the proposed supplemental budget, the DA said.
In addition to the assistance provided by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DA will grant social amelioration to farmers, fishers and farm workers, with P3 billion recommended budget.
Also, a total of P500 million will be allotted for the acquisition of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and other accessories to protect DA personnel from COVID-19, while P200 million will go the Sustained Information, Education and Communication Project of the DA.
Two weeks ago, as President Rodrigo Duterte placed the country’s capital under community quarantine, DA assured that Metro Manila, home to nearly 14 million people, will have enough food supply including rice, vegetables, and meat at least in the next few months.
But on the possible worst case scenario, with retailers no longer willing to sell food amid the pandemic, Dar only said “let’s pray that it’s not going to happen”.
Since then, food prices have already gone up while supplies began to thin as the delivery of agriculture product from province gets hampered at quarantine checkpoints set up across different areas in Luzon.