The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture chair Abraham Mitra, during the committee’s regional consultation here, said that the budget for the agriculture sector should be increased and that it should even be larger budget than the military’s.
BY CYE REYES
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 15, May 18-24, 2008
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (247 kms. North of Manila)—The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture chair Abraham Mitra, during the committee’s regional consultation here, said that the budget for the agriculture sector should be increased and that it should even be larger budget than the military’s.
“The agriculture sector should be second to education in terms of budget allocation and should have a higher budget than the military,” said Mitra adding that he will push for this during deliberations for the 2009 budget in Congress.
The congressman said he has talked about this with National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro who, according to him, “is also for this as long as their budget will not be reduced.”
Virgie Dammay of APIT-TAKO a peasant alliance in the Cordillera, said that they support Mitra’s call citing that as an agricultural country, the government should give priority to the development of the agriculture sector.
On the other hand, Dammay was also wary about the proposal saying that “ though increasing the budget for the agriculture sector would also mean more peoples’ money would be subjected to corruption.”
The 2008 national budget allocates P50.9 billion ($1,189,252,336 at an exchange rate of $1=P42.80) to the Department of National Defense and P26.8 billion ($626,168,224) to the Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, Cordillera farmers and representatives of different agricultural line agencies of the local government expressed their grave concern over the influx of imported and smuggled vegetables. This was raised as an urgent threat to local vegetable production.
“This vegetable smuggling almost killed the province’s vegetable industry because nobody is buying our vegetables,” said Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan.
Compared to the price of locally produced vegetables, smuggled vegetables are much cheaper thus preferred by consumers.
Mitra reassured the participants that their committee would look into this matter.
Dammay on the other hand said that it is more the legal importation of vegetables that is killing the local vegetable industry.
“Entering into an agreement on agriculture under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) is mainly the cause of this influx of cheap imported vegetables,” said Dammay citing that under this agreement, tariffs for imported agricultural products were lifted giving no protection to local food production.
“There is adequate supply of rice”
On the “rice crisis” issue, Mitra said that the country has an adequate supply of rice.
“The common sentiment of the farmers we have consulted during our rounds to the different regions, is to stop the importation of rice because there is really adequate supply,” said Mitra.
“We will have our own investigation on this to validate what the Department of Agriculture (DA) is saying that there is a rice shortage,” said Mitra adding that they would soon be ready to come up with their own findings. (Bulatlat.com)Nordis/>