DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Sept) – Senator Cynthia Villar said she wants a bigger budget allocation for the livestock sector from the P60 billion proposed budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2018 because “it is not fair for livestock program to get a small percentage of the budget” when it contributed 33 percent of the entire production of the agricultural sector.
Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said during the Davao Agri-Trade Expo (DATE) on Friday at the SMX Convention Center Davao that the budget should be commensurate to the revenue contribution of the industry.
She said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol agreed to increase the budget for livestock to P5 billion for next year from the original P1.2 billion, which comprises only 2 percent of the proposed 2018 department budget.
Villar said National Livestock Program had been consistently getting a low budget in the previous years compared to P6 billion for Fisheries Development Program and P11.8 billion for the National Rice Program annually, but pointed out that agriculture “is not about rice or vegetables.
She said equal attention must be given to its other components such as livestock, poultry and dairy, which comprises 33 percent of the country’s total agriculture produce, 50 percent crops, and the rest, fisheries.
Villar added a bigger budget for livestock will also enable the sector to improve the milk production that currently stands at one percent per annum while the other 99 percent is imported from New Zealand and some countries in Europe like Netherlands and Sweden.
She also hopes to provide assistance to poultry farmers that were affected by bird flu in Pampanga in Central Luzon and to help the small livestock players in the country.
The senator said she is also keen on passing a legislation called “Livestock, Poultry, and Dairy Development Law” to ensure that this sector will receive a substantial budget annually.
Villar said she will also push for a P2-billion budget for free irrigation next year that will benefit small rice farmers in the country, or those owning a rice field not more than 5 hectares.
A bill seeking free irrigation has been approved in both chambers of Congress and awaits bicameral approval to institutionalize the budget allocation for free irrigation, she said.
“Pwede kaming magbudget but every year ilalagay ang budget whereas if it is legislated then the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will put budget for free irrigation,” she said.
Once legislated, Villar believes the bill will benefit the small rice farmers as it will reduce the production cost, with the free irrigation. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)