The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it has earmarked P11 billion for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as well as assistance to farmers and fisherfolks next year.
In a statement, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said the government plans to spend P10 billion for RCEF and P1 billion for farmers and fisherfolk assistance under the 2023 proposed national budget.
RCEF is intended to improve the productivity and competitiveness of local rice farmers and increase their income through the provision of farm machinery and equipment, rice seed development, propagation, and promotion, expanded rice credit assistance, and rice extension services.
On the P1 billion assistance to farmers and fisherfolk, Pangandaman said P510.45 million is lodged under the budget of the Department of Agriculture for corn farmers, while P489.6 million, a part of the budget of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, will be for fisherfolk.
“The FY 2023 budget for assistance in the agriculture sector is doubled from P500.0 million this year. Of course, providing better support to our producers is vital in achieving food security which is one of the near-term goals of the administration,” Pangandaman said.
This is for the provision of fuel discounts to qualified farmers and fisherfolk who own and operate agricultural and fishery machinery individually or through a farmer organization, cooperative, or association.
Since the assistance programs are with the specific condition of the Dubai crude oil reaching or being higher than $80 barrel for three months, the specific guidelines for its implementation are yet to be finalized.
When asked about the assurance of proper implementation of agriculture programs, Pangandaman replied: “With the new leadership of the Department of Agriculture, we believe they’d be able to disburse and absorb the levels that we have provided.”
Meanwhile, Pangandaman announced that there are no for-later-release (FLR) funds in the proposed national government budget for 2023.
Pangandaman said that during her stint as DBM Undersecretary under the leadership of then DBM Chief and now Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the term “FLR funds” was not used.
“Under Secretary Diokno, we didn’t use the term FLR. So it’s actually something new to us when I reentered DBM,” Sec. Pangandaman said.
The budget chief further elaborated, “When I entered DBM, I saw that there are so many documents that need to be signed and sent to the Office of the President.”
“I thought then that it’s quite tedious for the staff and even for the Office of the President with this system that caused delays in budget releases. So I assumed office, I gave the instructions that there will be no ‘for later release’ under government funds,” she added.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, remarked that FLR funds and cash-based budgeting are antithetical to each other.
He cited economic principles of efficiency and opportunity cost as factors negating the utility of FLR funds.
(Chino S. Leyco, Manila Bulletin)