Marcos bailiwicks to get more road projects in 2023, KMP reveals
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) questioned proposed fund cuts for irrigation and equipment procurement for the country’s national rice program in next year’s proposed national budget.
The farmers’ group reported that the Department of Agriculture proposes a P211 million cut in the budget for the Irrigation Network Service from the current P932 million to P721 million in 2023.
The KMP added that the agency, led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, proposes a 64% budget slash from the current P1.9 billion to P700 million for the Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities of the ongoing National Rice Program.
Likewise, the Extension Support, Education, and Training Services budget for the National Livestock Program will be slashed by P82 million from P611 million to P529 million, the KMP said.
“These are crucial projects, activities, and programs related to the recovery of the slumped rice and livestock sectors. Why impose these budget cuts?” former agrarian reform secretary and KMP’s long-time leader Rafael Mariano asked.
Agri budget for counter-insurgency
In a statement, Mariano also said that the agency must explain why the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seem to prioritize programs that are being used for the government’s counter-insurgency project.
Among these include the budget for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program proposed to enjoy a P251 million budget increase from P923 million to P1.1 billion next year.
SAAD, however, is not a generic DA project but was created by former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
“Technically, this budget for SAAD is a budget for counterinsurgency under the guise of social and economic interventions such as social preparation, production and livelihood, marketing assistance and enterprise development. We want to know, how in reality, SAAD aids in poverty alleviation of farmers and fishers when the most basic issues in rural communities are not being addressed,” Mariano said.
More agri budget for Marcos’ home regions
KMP also noted that the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seems to favor Marcos’ home regions, Ilocos and Eastern Visayas. The president’s father, Ferdinand Sr. was from Ilocos Norte while his mother is from Leyte.
“[The KMP finds] it dubious that the DA gave funding preference for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads (FMR) in key production areas in known ‘Marcos territories’ like in Regions 1 and 8,” the group said.
From P7.5 billion, the farm-to-market roads budget will increase to P13.1 billion, of which some P1.86 billion will go to Region 1 and P1.41 billion for Region 8, the group reported.
KMP said it identified more than 100 FMR projects in Ilocos Norte and Leyte provinces alone, mostly concreting of barangay roads. Each FMR project ranges from P12 million to P30 million.
KMP added that farm-to-market road projects easily become budget for “farm-to-pockets” operations.
“Sana, hindi tatambakan lang ng graba (gravel) ang isang kilometro ng kalsada tapos tatawagin nang farm-to-market road. Kailangan busisiin ang mga badyet para sa farm-to-market roads dahil dito laging may mga kumukubra,” Mariano said.
(We wish they will not just dump gravel on short stretches and already call them farm-to-market roads. There is a need to investigate the budget because corruption is rife in such projects.)
“Huge amounts are spent on roads that are repaired or rebuilt over and over, resulting in favored contractors and duplication of projects. Corruption is also a given in these projects,” the farmer-leader added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)