Hit hard by government’s greater dependence on food importation during the coronavirus pandemic, farmers have demanded P15,000 production subsidy in next year’s national budget.
Reacting to Department of Agriculture (DA) statements at its ongoing budget deliberations at the House of Representatives, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also said it opposes secretary William Dar’s admission there will be no cash aid for farmers under their Php91 billion 2022 budget proposal.
“Gutom po ang mga Pilipino lalo na ngayong pandemya. Kailangan palakasin ang lokal na produksyon ng pagkain. Paano magagawa ito kung walang ayuda sa mga magsasaka at hindi nagagamit ng tama ang pondo sa agrikultura ayon sa pangangailan ng mga magbubukid? KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos in a statement said.
(There are more hungry Filipinos during this pandemic. Local food production must be strengthened. How can this be achieved without cash aid to farmers and funds are not used properly to benefit farmers?)
Ramos said that they support a higher budget for DA, their group is not keen on the department’s fiscal directions as well as greater emphasis on import liberalization and private and foreign investments on agriculture.
Ramos said such policies have only primarily benefited local and foreign business interests and have further marginalized poor farmers.
“The perfect storm in agriculture is not only due to the african swine flu (ASF), climatic events, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of neo-liberal policies have only worsened the state of agriculture and Filipino farmers,” Ramos said.
The KMP revealed that DA’s “Matibay na Seguridad sa Pagkain, Maunlad at Masaganang Buhay ng mga Magsasaka at Mangingisda” program is in fact decreasing the budget for corn production, organic agriculture as well as the production of high-value crops.
“The P207M o 1.33% increase in the National Rice Program budget is also very meager to support rice production,” it added.
KMP said DA’s market and business-driven and profit-oriented programs remains its focus while failing to address the slump in pork production due to the ASF.
“The DA is already discussing technology and modernization under Digital Agriculture 4.0, while the dominant domestic farming perennially relies on carabao and manual plow. There is a significant disconnect between DA’s policies and the realities of poor Filipino farmers,” Ramos revealed.
The KMP said Dar must realize the actual condition of farmers and get out of his “alternate reality.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)