Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed his support for the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Agriculture as he commended the agency for its swift response to the needs of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk during the pandemic.
“I am here to manifest my full support to the budget of the Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary William Dar, its banner programs and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” Go said during his manifestation at a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance on Friday, October 16.
Go explained his support for the agriculture budget because its thrust, priorities, and strategies support the vision of “a food secure and resilient Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk”.
“I trust the department to stay true to its vision and continue their efforts in providing reprieve to our less fortunate farmers and fisherfolk and ensure production, availability, accessibility and affordability, price stability, sustainability, and food safety,” he added.
Go, then, lauded the swift response of the Department of Agriculture to address the dismal effects of the ongoing pandemic.
“The Department provided financial subsidy to more than 530,000 rice farmers. They have released and continue to release zero-interest loans to marginalized small farmers and fisherfolk, and agri-based micro and small enterprises,” Go cited.
“In addition, they have extended support services, education, training, and agricultural equipment and facilities to our poverty-stricken farmers and fisherfolk. The help they provided, in turn, safeguarded our nation’s food security which is vital for each and everyone’s sustenance,” he added.
Earlier, Go renewed his call for the DA to intensify its support for the agricultural sector in providing livelihood, food security, and in boosting economic activities in the countryside.
“Lalo na sa panahon ngayon na apektado ng krisis ang ating ekonomiya, ‘back to basics’ po tayo. Nakita natin ngayon kung gaano kahalaga ang agrikultura sa ating bansa at sa ating kabuhayan,” Go said.
“Mabilis pong maibabalik ang sigla ng ating ekonomiya kung palalakasin natin ang sektor ng agrikultura sa ating mga probinsya,” he added.
He also called for the DA to complement the BP2 program in revitalizing the country’s agricultural sector as many Filipinos expressed willingness to participate in the program and be reintegrated in the rural communities. He emphasized that the government must provide agricultural training and strengthen programs promoting agri-preneurship.
“Marami pong nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan dahil sa krisis. Kung uuwi po sila sa kanilang probinsya, bigyan po dapat sila ng oportunidad pang-livelihood na akma sa kanilang lugar at karamihan po ng ating probinsya ay agriculture-driven ang lokal na ekonomiya,” Go explained.
“Magiging primary source po ng kabuhayan ang agrikultura ng mga magbabalik probinsya kung kaya’t dapat mas palakasin ang mga programang pwedeng magturo at sumuporta sa mga nais magsaka, mangisda, at iba pang kabuhayang pang-agrikultura,” he added.
During the hearing, Go also mentioned that the passage of Bayanihan 2 has also empowered the Department to further its efforts in assisting our farmers and fisherfolk during these trying times.
“The Bayanihan 2 directed the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines to prioritize agri-fishery businesses, agriculture cooperatives, farmers, fisherfolk and other agricultural workers in the provision of low interest and flexible loans,” he said.
“In addition, appropriations and standby fund of 24 billion pesos was allocated to assist our agricultural sector,” he added.
Go, then, called on the department to safeguard and spend this appropriation judiciously.
“Kailangan unahin po natin ang pinakamahihirap na magsasaka. ‘Wag po natin silang hayaang magutom. Bigyan po natin sila ng lahat ng kailangan nila para makabangon muli,” he asked of DA.
“Ang mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda po natin ay maituturing rin na mga importanteng frontliners ng ating bansa. Kung wala po sila, wala po tayong makakain sa araw-araw. Kung kaya’t nakikiusap po ako sa inyo na gamitin ang budget ng maayos up to the last centavo,” he emphasized.
During the deliberations, Go challenged DA Secretary William Dar to go after agricultural smugglers and help eradicate systemic corruption in government.
“Ubusin mo ‘yan,” Go urged. “Patunayan mo. With one year and (eight) months na lang ang natitira sa termino ng Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte),” he added.
Dar responded affirmatively, but said that a whole-of-government approach is also required to resolve the issue on agricultural smuggling.
Ending his manifestation, Go assured the country’s farmers and fisherfolk that his office is always open to listen to their concerns.
“Para sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda, bukas po ang aking opisina para pakinggan kayo,” Go said.
“Kung mayroon po kayong nakikitang anomalya, ako mismo ang magko-call out sa mga bulok na opisyal na inuuna ang kanilang pansariling interes bago ang interes ng bayan at ng Pilipino,” he ended.