Day after his first anniversary as the Department Secretary, Agriculture Chief William Dar led the National Agriculture and Fisheries (NAF) Council meeting on August 6, 2020 and consulted more than 30 council members on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Plan and Budget Proposal (PBP).
The NAF Council, chaired by the DA Secretary, serves as the highest mechanism for consultation and dialogue among and between DA and different national government agencies (NGAs), local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations (CSOs), people’s organizations, non-government organizations, and private sector stakeholders including farmers’ and fishers’ groups.
DA’s Undersecretaries for Policy and Planning and for Operations serve as the Vice-Chairpersons of the Council. While the members consist of 15 Cabinet Secretaries, 16 CSOs, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and League of Cities of the Philippines.
The consultation was attended by top DA officials and council members who were physically present and via videoconference. DA’s Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rodolfo Vicerra and the Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan served as Vice-Chairpersons of the Council.
“Let me thank all the sectors of the Department for the continuous support and ideas, inputs and engagements in various mechanisms and committees towards ensuring that the plans, programs and projects of DA to be implemented are those needed by the sector,” said Sec. Dar.
Assistant Secretary-Designate for Policy and Project Development Agnes Catherine Miranda reported the Department’s accomplishment report for July 2019 to June 2020, while Usec. Vicerra reported the DA’s FY 2021 PBP.
DA Accomplishment highlighted the three main goals under its vision of “Masaganang Ani, Mataas na Kita”, which includes raising productivity and incomes, generating employment, and ensuring the supply of affordable and accessible basic food commodities.
Asec. Miranda also enumerated major challenges faced by the agriculture and fisheries sector and how DA addressed these.
She particularly mentioned the high price of rice, low price of palay, fall armyworm infestation, African Swine Fever outbreak, Climate Change, Taal Volcano eruption, and COVID-19 pandemic. To assist the sector, DA provided major assistance by providing rural infrastructure, credit and agricultural insurance, policy support, and implementation of major projects in the pipeline.
Amid recent challenges, Sec. Dar shared with the Council the 0.5% performance growth of the country’s agriculture and fisheries sector during the second quarter of the year.
“The performance was a product of the strong partnership with the LGUs, the private sector, farmers’ and fisherfolk’s groups, and other stakeholders,” he added.
DA also reported that it is in the process of roadmaps revision based on the effects and learnings from COVID-19 and anchored on the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and Industrialization Plan. It also shared to the Council that there are plans for the conduct of stakeholders’ consultation for this purpose.
Meanwhile, Usec. Vicerra discussed that DA’s FY 2021 PBP is now anchored on the approved Food Security Plan Framework which provides important directions and policy guidance in terms of DA priorities.
DA’s goal now is to focus on survival and resilience, reboot the sector through the principles of new thinking and the eight paradigms, and grow in partnerships with the stakeholders. To attain these, he mentioned that one of the key areas that will assist DA to realize this vision are the institutions involved in the private sector, LGUs, NGAs, State Universities and Colleges, consumer groups, and other concerned stakeholders.
For 2021, DA’s PBP totaled more than PhP280 Billion (B), with PhP61.7B for Tier 1 and PhP222.7B for Tier 2.
“We are still at the period where we can appreciate, improve, and strengthen the DA’s PBP for FY 2021 as the Department of Budget and Management is in the final stage of reviewing the proposals,” Sec. Dar added.
The participants appealed for renegotiation on additional budget (under Tier 2) specifically for corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
They added that the budget allocated for the poultry and livestock sector is only 3.6% of the DA’s total budget while the sector is contributing 30% to the total agricultural performance. On the other hand, the livestock sector will submit a proposed improvement on the policy and guidelines for handling of control of animal diseases, for consideration of the DA Crisis Management Team.
They expressed that the actual experiences of livestock stakeholders regarding the African Swine Fever outbreak will also be outlined in the report.
The Corn Industry Development Act was also raised to be included in DA’s priority legislative agenda. The NBPC on Poultry, Livestock, and Corn recommends that tariff revenues from importations of corn and corn substitutes should be used to support corn industry development and the corn farmers.
PCAF’s National Banner Program Committee (NBPC) on Rice also mentioned its recommendations for a holistic and integrated approach involving not only machineries and seeds but also diversification of farm incomes, crop insurance and other key interventions.
One of the suggested interventions that DA, through PCAF, should undertake is the review and further streamlining of the process of accreditation of cooperatives to qualify for farm consolidation.
The Committee also suggested larger support and mainstreaming of organic agriculture and alternative technologies such as the System for Rice Intensification in the Rice Program.
Climate Change advocates also expressed their concern on the proposal of PhP145 Million for the Climate Resiliency under Tier 2, but according to them, it was not approved. The Climate Resiliency and institution building will still be mainstreamed and incorporated in the programs, activities and projects of the banner programs.
Meanwhile, the Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council said that it proposed a capacity-building of Agriculture Extension Workers and or a “provincial-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems”.
The DA also expressed its plans to strengthen its relations with the League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Cities of the Philippines and League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
The League of Governors of the Philippines, headed by Marinduque Governor Presbitero Jose Velasco, Jr. assured that they will exert effort to get the support of their respective representatives, through a resolution to support the approval of DA budget proposal, especially those under Tier 2.
“The budget is not cast in stone yet. We are fair during this meeting to appreciate all your ideas so that in the end, we want the sector to really unlock its contribution to the economy much higher than today,” assured the Secretary.
The Council unanimously agreed to adopt a resolution endorsing to the DBM the DA’s FY 2021 Plan and Budget Proposal.
The Secretary stressed that the NAF Council will meet frequently and assured to strengthen private sector engagement in the consultation of the DA-PCAF. He set the next Council meeting in November 2020. ###JC