Villar: Agri law to benefit farmers, fishermen
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 31, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The passage into law of an agricultural program extending funding to small farmers and fishermen will help legitimate beneficiaries, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said the law is needed to enable farmers and fisherfolks improve their production and competitiveness, especially with the ASEAN economic integration.

“We are confident that with the strict guidelines now in place, the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) will be effective and work for the benefit of farmers,” Villar said.

“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 competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” she said.

Republic Act 10848 was signed by President Aquino on May 23 to extend the ACEF implementation until 2022.

Under the law, 80 percent of the fund will be set aside as loan to micro and small enterprises 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 law amends RA 8178 as amended by RA 9496 or “An act replacing quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products, except rice, with tariffs, creating the ACEF, and for other purposes.”

 The new law mandates that funds will be set aside and released to provide credit to farmers and fishermen cooperative and associations as well as micro and small-scale businesses.

Beneficiaries will 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.

The Land Bank of the Philippines will manage the credit facilitation and set the required loan security or collateral of beneficiaries.

Ten 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.

Ten percent will be used for the funding of a comprehensive 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 attainment of the objectives of the fund, an ACEF executive committee, composed of the secretary of agriculture as chair; president of Land Bank; chairperson of CHED, representative of farmers associations and cooperatives, and representative of fishermen’s association and cooperatives, will be created. 

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

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