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Piñol fights budget cut

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol is up in arms over a plan to further trim the budget for his department for 2018, saying farmers and fishermen deserve their fair share of the national budget.

Piñol said he would ask the help of President Duterte to forestall the plan of the country’s financial managers to slash its current budget of P46 billion.

“The time has come for the farmers and fishermen of this country to demand what is rightfully theirs – a fair share of the national budget for them to be able to wiggle out of poverty and produce food for this country,” said Piñol.

Piñol said the 2017 agriculture and fisheries budget pales in comparison with that of the P700 billion given to education and P600 billion to public works and highways.

“The P46-B, which may even be reduced in 2018, is even smaller than the budget for the 4Ps program which gives out financial subsidy to the poor families of this country in the amount of P54-B for 2017,” said Piñol in his latest Facebook post.

Piñol said if the country hopes to reduce the National Poverty Level from 26 percent to the targeted 17 percent by the end of the term of Duterte, the formula is not to give dole-outs to the poor but to provide payable financing to farmers and fishermen.

Piñol said he decided not to argue with the R46-billion budget his department was given in 2017.

“But the last straw came last week, as the officials of the DAF started working with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to craft the National Expenditure Program for Agriculture and Fisheries for 2018, expressed concern over the way our proposals were handled,” said Piñol.

“They told me that there would be a further reduction in the budget of the Department and the programs that we are proposing may not be given enough budget.”

The looming budget cut comes on heels of reports that the harvest of rice farmers during the first quarter of 2017 reached 210,668 metric tons which PhilRice Executive Director Dr. Sailila Abdula said was way higher than the first quarter of 2016.

“For the first time in the history, the country’s rice farmers posted a 4.15-metric ton average yield per hectare per harvest, breaking the previous average of only 3.9MT per hectare,” said Piñol.