The House of Representatives on Tuesday deferred its termination of the plenary interpellation on the Department of Agriculture's (DA) proposed budget of P54.2 billion for 2018 as there are other issues the DA needs to explain during the floor deliberation.
The DA proposed budget is 32.5 percent more than this year's appropriation of P45.2 billion.
During the plenary budget deliberation, Rep. Cecilia Leonila Chavez (Party list, Butil) said there is nothing more that she wants but for the DA's budget to be approved so that the department can serve the farmers better.
But Chavez moved for the deferment of the DA budget proposal, saying that the issues and concerns she raised on several items under the DA 2018 budget are serious enough to merit a more thorough review.
I just want to be clear that I am not against the approval of the budget of the DA because as a farmers' representative, I will be doing injustice to the farmers' sector if I will be silent on the issues that I have propounded, said Chavez.
Lest, we appropriate funds in public money and programs that may not really serve their purpose, I would rather support a budgetary program that is more sustainable and strategically beneficial. As I have mentioned earlier, a congressional oversight is in order on the multi-positive issues and programs of the DA that I doubt, Chavez further said.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Rep. Danilo Suarez (3rd District, Quezon), sought an assurance that the DA budget will be properly spent, considering that the department is involved in food security.
Suarez expressed alarm over news about the proliferation of fake rice and the DA's previous call for the importation of rice through government-to-government purchase in preparation for the lean months.
Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar (Party list, PBA), sponsor of the DA budget proposal, said the DA's policy under Secretary Emmanuel PiAol assures of pre-procurement of necessary equipment and pre-positioning of projects and programs. The full utilization of the DA's budget is hence guaranteed for the fiscal year 2018, he said.
Sambar further said that based on the investigation done by the DA, there is no proof on the existence of fake rice in the country.
The lawmaker said the circulation of news regarding the fake rice was never confirmed. That is the stand of the DA and even the National Food Authority (NFA) which investigated the matter," said Sambar.
He said the PhilRice also conducted a test on the so-called fake rice and found out that these were real rice that were just polished very well.
Sambar said PiAol's dream to achieve rice sufficiency is on top of the DA's priorities, with the primary objective of making food available to the people.
The proposed DA budget will also finance the construction of additional 1,179 kilometers of farm-to-market roads to link farmer producers to market centers which will open up economic opportunities for the rural sector.
The 2018 DA budget will also be used for research and development, market development, credit support services for the commodity programs in agriculture and fishery, and construction of farm-to-market roads.
Source: House of Representatives