Dar supports bringing back Marcos’ Masagana 99: Correct mistakes if any, strengthen program

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 22) — Outgoing Agriculture Secretary William Dar is in favor of bringing back Masagana 99, an agriculture program during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to boost rice production and farmer productivity.

"If there were mistakes in the past, we have to correct those mistakes and strengthen overall the program," said Dar at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum on Wednesday, listing the program among his recommendations for his successor, President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Such programs will help increase the country’s buffer stock which is key to bringing the per-kilogram prices of rice to as low as possible, according to the DA chief.

RELATED: Agri chief: Marcos' ₱20/kilo rice proposal only possible with bigger gov't funding

Masagana 99, which targeted a yield of 99 cavans of rice per hectare in each harvest season, was implemented by the late dictator in 1973 to address the country’s rice shortage then.

Drawing from the program, Dar likewise pitched Masagana 150 which targets a yield of 7.5 metric tons per hectare for inbred rice and Masagana 200 which aims to yield 10 MT per hectare for hybrid rice.

Dar noted that the country’s average for inbred and hybrid rice is at 4.5 MT per hectare, or about 90 cavans.

Among the features of Masagana 99 was a supervised credit program for farmers, which eventually became unsustainable and prompted rural banks to shoulder the risk of extending loans to farmers.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III pointed out these shortcomings during a Senate hearing on May 2020, when Sen. Imee Marcos touted the supposed success of the program.

“I was Secretary of Agriculture that cleaned up the mess of Masagana 99. There were about 800 rural banks that were bankrupted by that program, we had to rescue them. Whether it was a total success or not, it has to be measured against them,” said Dominguez, recalling his time in former President Corazon Aquino’s Cabinet.

Experts who were part of Masagana 99’s implementation have also criticized it for its use of pesticides that damaged the environment, and loss of trained personnel, among others. The program was eventually scrapped in 1984. 

President-elect Marcos, who recently announced he will lead DA “at least for now,” will formally start his term on June 30.