Emmanuel Piñol challenges critics of poor agriculture contribution
Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has challenged those critical of the contribution of agriculture to the country’s economic growth to stop the production of the sector to prove its poor performance.

“Then if that is true, then the economy will continue to grow even if we do not plant rice, even if we don’t have abaca, even if we don’t have bananas, because that’s the only way they can prove that statement,” Piñol said.

On Wednesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the agriculture sector grew by a paltry 0.8 percent in 2018, contributing only 0.1 percentage point to the overall gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2018. 

“Simply put, the farm sector had virtually zero contribution to economic growth last year,” Diokno said.

Diokno said had the sector grown at its potential of four percent, the full-year economic expansion would have reached 6.5 percent, the lower-end of the government’s revised GDP growth target for 2018.

“It’s for these reasons that the Duterte administration is prioritizing the agriculture sector. For our farmers and fisherfolk in the rural areas, higher productivity will mean higher incomes. At the same time, for consumers, this means lower prices for staple food items like rice, vegetables, fish, and meat,” Diokno said.

Piñol emphasized that for the agriculture sector to boost its productivity, it would need more budget. 

“You want us to produce food, you provide us with the fund to produce. You provide us with the money to produce,” Piñol said.

“The point is, put your money where your mouth is. Give us money and we will produce food for you,” he added.

Piñol stressed the lack of budget received by the agriculture sector, noting that for this year, only P49 billion of the P122 billion budget it proposed was approved.

 “I cannot actually find the rhyme or rhythm in the continue of criticism of the macro performance of agriculture and the unwillingness to provide support fund for agriculture,” Piñol said.

“I don’t think some of our people in government actually understand where the President is coming from and I hope the last statement of the President declaring that the Philippines will always be an agricultural country will send a clear signal to all that the President is expecting agriculture will get its fair share of funding allocation,” he added.

Pinol led the launch of the Malasakit Help Desk at the DA Central Office on Thursday.

The Malasakit Help Desk will serve as an integrated window for selected services of the DA, including its bureaus, attached agencies and corporations. It complements the Public Assistance Center located in all DA offices as required by Republic Act 9485 otherwise known as the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.

Services initially include access to agri-fishery information and data, including those involving registration and accreditation; agri profiling and validation; access to credit facilities, crop insurance, scholarships, trainings and seminars, and employment.

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