Villar urges Congress to extend agri fund validity
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Cynthia Villar is urging the House of Representatives to pass the measure extending the validity of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), which expired in December last year.

Villar, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, emphasized the need to immediately approve the measure to help farmers and fisherfolks improve their production and competitiveness, especially with the Asean economic integration.

The Senate approved last December SB 2951 which extends the life of the ACEF for another five years until 2020.

“I am hopeful the leadership of the House of Representatives will include this measure in their priority list for the remaining days of the 16th Congress,” she said.

Villar said strict guidelines were included in the Senate bill version to ensure only legitimate farmers and fisherfolks will have access to the funds.

“In our hearings, we were able to pinpoint the reasons why ACEF failed to deliver on its promised objectives.  These lessons served as guideposts in coming up with a program that will truly work for the noble intention of improving the competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” she said.

If passed, the bill will effectively amend Republic Act 8178, which replaced quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products, except rice, with tariffs, and created the ACEF.

Under the proposed measure, the fund shall provide the necessary credit to farmers and fisherfolk cooperative and associations, and micro and small-scale enterprises.

About 80 percent of the fund will be set aside for loan with minimal interest.

Only P5 million per cooperative and P1 million per individual will be released strictly for the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and post-production, and processing, machineries, equipment and facilities to achieve modern agricultural practices.

The loan beneficiaries shall provide a counterpart fund of not less than 10 percent of the total project cost, which may be in the form of capital outlay, labor, land for the project site, facilities, equipment, and salaries.

As manager of the facility, the Land Bank of the Philippines will be tasked with determining the eligibility requirements and setting the required loan security or collateral of loan beneficiaries.

The bill also states that 10 percent will be set aside as grants for research and development of agricultural and fishery products, and the commercialization of such, including the upgrading of research facilities of qualified state universities and colleges, which shall not exceed P5 million per project.

Another 10 percent will be used for the funding of a comprehensive and attractive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

To ensure the fund achieves its objectives, an ACEF executive committee shall be created composed of the Secretary of Agriculture as chair; LandBank president, CHED chairperson, a representative of farmers associations and cooperatives, and a representative of fisherfolk associations and cooperatives.

The Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization will also continue to perform oversight function over the implementation of ACEF.

 

 

AGRICULTURAL AND FISHERIES MODERNIZATION AGRICULTURAL COMPETITIVENESS ENHANCEMENT FUND AGRICULTURE AND FOOD CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE HIGHER EDUCATION HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES REPUBLIC ACT SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE SENATE COMMITTEE SENATOR CYNTHIA VILLAR
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