MANILA A lawmaker on Thursday warned that the Department of Agriculture's policy shift in farmers' assistance from subsidy to credit (S2C) may lead to "privatization."
During the budget deliberations of the House appropriations committee on the DA's proposed PHP49.8-billion budget for 2019 on Thursday, ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro said scrapping the government subsidies would further increase the indebtedness of farmers rather than boost farm productivity.
"Lalong malulubog sa utang at kahirapan ang mga Pilipinong magsasaka... (Our Filipino farmers would be drowning in debt)," Castro said.
"Nananatiling mas tamang polisiya ang direct subsidies sa agriculture sector na nakikita sa ibang bansa na nagpapataas ng (The better policy remains to be the direct subsidies to the agriculture sector, which other countries perceive as a fact to increase) productivity, [which in turn] leads to food self-sufficiency, and lifts farmers and fisherfolk from poverty," she added.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol noted that the department is shifting from direct provision of subsidies to "easy access financing" of agricultural and fisheries production support program starting 2020.
"We are slowly shifting from subsidy to credit and this is mainly because of the fact that we could not possibly give out free support to everybody," PiAol, who attended the budget hearing, said.
PiAol also cited delays and other institutional problems in procurement as the reasons for the policy shift.
He said the S2C program will have PHP5.1 billion in loan funds available with a target of 74,000 beneficiaries.
Qualified farmers and fisherfolk associations, private lending institutions may now be tapped as conduits.
Credit Management Teams will be created to identify potential conduits and borrowers, as well as Loan Facilitation Teams in every province tasked to assist farmers, fisherfolk, and other agriculture stakeholders who would like to avail of the lending program.
Source: Philippine News Agency