Lawmaker wants DA to simplify requirements for post-harvest programs to address huge underspending

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — Agri Party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee on Monday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to simplify the requirements for post-harvest programs as the agency has failed to spend almost ₱15 billion for these initiatives this year.

During the House of Representatives’ plenary debates for the proposed budget of the DA next year, Lee said that as of the second quarter, the agency still has to use around ₱14.95 billion of its ₱19.63 billion budget for major post-harvest programs.

"Ang masaklap nga po, hirap na nga makahanap ng pondo, sangkatutak ang requirements at napakahirap kumpletuhin [What's awful is that while it's difficult for them to look for funds, it's also hard for them to comply with the long list of requirements]," the lawmaker said.

He said there were around "50 requirements" needed to enter the program, including those for registration, accreditation, endorsement, proofs of capacity, evaluation, and validation.

He said the funds were earmerked as aid for small farmers and fisherfolk.

"Can the DA, through the distinguished sponsor, concretely agree today to liberalize the requirements or simplehan ang mga hinihingi ng DA para pabilisin ang pamamahagi nito ng post-harvest equipment at pagtatayo ng facilties, para sa mga requirement sa pre-harvest programs katulad ng trainings, mga ibinababang binhi, para naman mapakinabagangan ito agad ng ating mga magsasaka at mangigngisda?" Lee asked.

[Translation: Can the DA, through the distinguished sponsor, concretely agree today to liberalize the requirements to hasten the distribution of post-harvest equipment and building of facilities, and also the requirements for pre-harvest programs like training and seed distribution, so that farmers and fisherfolk can immediately benefit from these?]

For his part, Isabela Rep. Tonypet Albano, sponsor of the proposed ₱167.45-billion budget of the DA for 2024, said: "I join the congressman Wilbert Lee [from] the Agri Party-list, because there are so many challenges that the Department of Agriculture has, especially when it comes to rolling out projects such as the fuel assistance status and accomplishments."

He said one challenge the farmers faced was that they have not attended the mandated Know Your Client verification. He added that while the agency conducts SMS blasts to inform beneficiaries, not all of them are "techie."

Lee pointed out that the Commission on Audit also has a lot of "stringent requirements," saying that in due time he would file a bill that will seek to streamline these.

In addition, Lee pointed out that ₱250 million for the "Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita" program and the ₱100 million budget for the implementation of the Sagip Saka Act remain unreleased.

"Wala masyadong nakakaano ng requirements, that's why hindi pa naro-roll out ang ibang program ng Kadiwa [Not many can comply with the requirements, that's why other programs of the Kadiwa are still not rolled out]," Albano said.

The Isabela lawmaker said the DA promised to implement a catch-up plan to fully roll out the project by the first quarter of 2024.

He also said he would ensure that requirements are streamlined so that farmers' cooperatives and associations can benefit from both the Kadiwa program and the Sagip Saka Act.

Lee also asked the DA to look into other pre-harvest and post-harvest programs with underutilized funds.