Department of Agriculture eyes over P200 billion budget for 2019

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking at an unprecedented budget of over P200 billion next year as it expects positive results from its planned bond flotation and the possible return of four agencies now under the  Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said the agency just had its internal budget hearing last week and it is proposing a P49-billion budget for Tier 1 only.

DA has a total allocation of P60.6 billion for this year.

But this could still increase if the department successfully undertakes its proposed bond flotation program this year to finance its farm-to-market roads (FMR) and farm mechanization projects.

“If we are able to do the bond flotation, our budget will be higher because that would be included in the total. And I am not seeing any problem with that since it is supported by Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez and Governor (Nestor) Espenilla,” Pinol said.

“If that happens, it would be on top of our GAA (General Appropriations Act) 2019, even if we would have it in tranches,” he said.

Approximately P200 billion in bonds would be floated for DA’s road network construction and mechanization program involving the acquisition of farm machinery and equipment, as well as post-harvest facilities.

Furthermore, the possible return of four agriculture-related agencies –National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) – to the DA will also likely boost its budget allocation next year.

“I’m not pushing for it, but I think that is the latest right now. We don’t have the official confirmation yet and I don’t want it to come from me,” Pinol said.

“If those agencies will be transferred to DA, we will have more than P200 billion in budget next year. I’m just waiting for the official pronouncement of the President. Anytime next month? I’m not sure, probably,” he said.

This year, the four agencies have a combined budget of nearly P60 billion.

Since 2016, Pinol has been pushing for the rescinding of former president Benigno Aquino III’s executive order which transferred the four agencies to the Office of the President.

He even submitted an executive order to be supposedly signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, but until now has yet to materialize. Eventually, Pinol stopped pushing for it and said he would just wait for any instruction from President Duterte.

Meanwhile, the DA is also expecting the initial release of the P1.5 billion fund from the US government intended to develop the country’s dairy industry which has been stalled for the past years.

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