Senate extends ACEF for another 5 years
The Senate has approved the proposal to extend for another five years the life of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).
Twenty senators voted to approve on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2951 or the bill seeking to extend the validity of the ACEF to help farmers and fisher folk improve their productivity and competitiveness.
The bill amends Republic Act No. 8178 which replaced quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products, except rice, with tariffs and first created the ACEF.
There were no negative votes and no abstentions. ACEF, which expired last December 2015, is extended up until December 2020.
“Filipino farmers and fisherfolk are still among the poorest in our country. They need continuous support in training, education and capital, among others, to enhance their competitiveness amidst intensifying competition – the very essence of ACEF,” said Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the committee on agriculture and food.
“The agriculture sector needs the boost that ACEF can provide. In the spirit of inclusive growth that we are aiming for, we cannot deprive them of the support that they can get from the fund,” Villar said.
Villar said ACEF shall continually provide the necessary credit needed by farmers and fisherfolk cooperatives and associations, including micro and small-scale enterprises (MSEs).
But new policies have been included to address the “reasons why ACEF had failed to deliver on its promised objectives.” This includes implementing stricter guidelines to make sure that only legitimate farmers or sectors will have access to the funds.
“We will strictly ensure that the projects that will be funded by the ACEF will really enhance the competitiveness of target project beneficiaries or sectors,” Villar said.
Under the new rules, the senator said about 80 percent of the fund will be in the form of credit with minimal interest.
This means that only P5-million per cooperative and P1-million per individual will be released for the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and post-production, processing, machineries, equipment and facilities to be at par with modern agricultural practices.
Ten percent of the remaining fund will be given as grants for research and development of agricultural and fishery products, and the commercialization of such, including the upgrading of research facilities of qualified state universities and colleges, which again, shall not exceed P5-million per project.
The remaining 10 percent will be used for the funding of a comprehensive and attractive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary medicine education, to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
For their part, loan beneficiaries shall carry not less than 10 percent of the total cost of the project, which may be in the form of capital outlay, labor, project site, facilities, equipment and salaries. (Ched Romulo)