BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
For a country to function efficiently, it needs a properly allocated budget that covers all the basic needs of its citizens to keep them safe and secure. Among those necessities is food. Countries that are food insecure have higher percentages of hunger and malnutrition.
The Philippine government recently prepared a P5.042T budget for 2022. But in that budget, only 1.4 percent has been given to the Department of Agriculture (DA). And with more than 110 million Filipinos residing in the Philippines as counted by the Commission of Population and Development, some people find the amount to be meager.
Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat raised her concerns on the budget last September 8, Wednesday, during the congress’ deliberation of the DA budget.
Cullamat argues that the government should “Fund food, not fascism” to provide assistance and food to local farmers who make produce available to millions of Filipinos.
“Dahil tayo ay nasa gitna pa rin ng pademya at matinding krisis, malawakang kagutuman at kahirapan, talagang kailangan ng mamamayan ng ayuda, lalo na ng mga magsasaka ang direktang ayuda. Sa panukalang budget para sa 2022, tinaasan ang budget ng pasismo tulad ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) na nagkakahalaga ng P28.1 Bilyon. Kung inilaan ito sa ayuda para sa mga magsasaka, mayroong 1.9 milyon na makakatanggap ng P15k production subsidy,” the Bayan Muna representative said.
(Because we are still in the midst of famine and severe crisis, widespread hunger, and poverty, the people really need help, especially the farmers. In the proposed budget for 2022, the budget for NTF-ELCAC was increased to P28.1 Billion. If it is allocated in aid for farmers, there are 1.9 million who will receive a P15k production subsidy.)
She added that farmers need direct assistance and subsidies for food production but in 2020, there was P9.8 that wasn’t given to the DA. And this June, there were P861.7 million unobligated funds that could’ve been given to aid struggling farmers.
The Lumad solon also stated that the unused funds from Bayanihan 2 can benefit the farmers amidst the pandemic crisis.
Under the Republic Act No. 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act,” government agencies are tasked to provide the appropriate response against COVID-19 and recovery measures for the country. The law lapsed in December of last year and is now being continued as Bayanihan 2.
Cullamat shared that there were P658.241 million unobligated funds from the DA that hadn’t reached local farmers.
“Immediately allocate sufficient funds for the development of local agriculture, especially in the production and processing of food for local needs. In connection with the pandemic, provide P10,000 cash aid per month to farmers and others. Provide P15,000 production subsidy per cropping for farmers, including free traditional and organic seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, feed, etc. Provide P100 wage relief for the working masses,” Cullamat advised.
Although the responsibility of providing for the people and the several industries within it fall under the government, there are different ways for private groups and citizens to aid local farmers such as buying their produce. But even so, it’s important to remember to call for accountability, especially from public servants, whenever necessary.