SPEAKER Alan Peter S. Cayetano said he will support at least P9 billion in additional funding for the procurement of palay, or unmilled rice, to support the market and prop up farmer incomes, as plenary discussion of the 2020 budget got underway in the House.
He also backed additional allocations for upgradng military and police camps.
In a chance interview with reporters before the plenary, Mr. Cayetano said that he can “almost guarantee” these two budget augmentations.
Mr. Cayetano said that during a caucus, legislators said they are considering palay procurement funds of at least P9 billion, up from P7 billion previously.
“Definitely not lower than P9 billion. But we are looking for much more,” he said. “Yung initial dito sa hearing, kulang na kulang yung P7 billion (During the initial discussions at the hearing we found that P7 is inadequate). Plus, I think the Department of Finance already collected more than P9 billion (in rice import tariffs). So lahat ng nakolekta sa tariffication, dapat naman sa farmers talaga mapupunta. Ayun yung intention. (All the collections generated by tariffication need to go to the farmers — that is the inention).“
In the 2020 National Expenditure Program of P4.1 trillion, the Department of Agriculture (DA) received a budget of P56.8 billion.
The DA is pressing for more palay procurement by government entities, including local governments, to support the collapsing market for palay, the form in which farmers sell rice to traders. The market for palay softened because of competition from greater quantities of imported rice brought in under the Rice Tariffication Law.
The law, enacted as a response to the inflation crisis of 2018, also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which is financed by tariffs collected on imports. RCEF is intended to upgrade rice farmers’ access to seed, inputs, credit, machinery, and rice-planting know-how.
Mr. Cayetano added that P500 million each might be given to the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to upgrade their camps.
“Another, yung focus ng ating pangulo is on security and makikita niyo na lagi naghahagilap ng pondo yung PNP at AFP (the President’s focus us on security and the PNP and AFP are always seeking extra funding). Paano ayusin yung mga kampo… (how will they upgrade their bases)… We want to have a camp development program,” Mr. Cayetano said.
He added, “So of course, AFP and PNP needs much more than that, from building (walls), CCTV, and barracks… I think it’s about time to have a five or ten year program na maayos yung mga (to upgrade) military and police camps all over the country.”
According to the 2020 NEP, the Philippine National Police has a P184.9-billion budget, and the Department of National Defense P189 billion. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras