Independent vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the government should set aside at least P300 billion, or more than three times its current budget allocation, for the agriculture sector to boost food production and provide much-needed support to impoverished farmers.
“We plan to increase the annual budget for the agriculture sector by three-fold because the present budget does not go far enough to support the critical needs of the sector that is struggling to provide the food requirements of the population,” said Escudero, who is running under the banner “Gobyernong may Puso” with presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe.
Under the P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, the agriculture sector has a total allocation of P94 billion, including the P40.2 billion earmarked for the Department of Agriculture and P32.7 billion for the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).
Escudero said during a campaign sortie that took him and Poe to Dagupan, Calasiao and San Carlos in the vote-rich Pangasinan, the agriculture sector should get at least 10 percent of the annual budget in order to “provide farmers with better infrastructure and access to funding programs that would enable them to produce food as efficiently as possible and feed the country’s rapidly expanding population.”
“The agriculture sector needs all the support it can get since 70 percent of the nation’s poor are in that sector and they depend directly on agriculture-related economic activities,” said Escudero, the frontrunner in the vice-presidential race.
Building more farm-to-market roads and equipping farmers with the right farming implements will boost their household income by 7 to 8 percent, said Escudero.
The government, he added, must also offer farmers support programs such as fertilizer and pesticide subsidies, improved access to post-harvest facilities and better irrigation.
Escudero said he will also move to make the irrigation service provided by the NIA free of charge. Farmers are paying an average annual irrigation fee of P4,500 per hectare.
“Malaki po ang pondo ng NIA kaya dapat tanggalin na ang singilin sa patubig. Sinasalanta na nga ng El Ninoang mga magsasaka kaya’t marapat na iwanan na lang perang ito sa kanilang mga bulsa,” the veteran lawmaker said.