PNoy admin withheld farmers’ competitiveness fund
Since the start of the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, government has not released new loans from the agricultural competitiveness enhancement fund which consists of tariffs from the importation of certain agricultural commodities such as rice and corn, the Commission on Audit report on the Department of Agriculture said.
The ACEF is intended for the agricultural sector to strengthen it, improve productivity, and make it more competitive. The releases for the program should have started in 1996 with the liberalization of trade in agriculture with the World Trade Organization.
The ACEF program was to be implemented budget department created a special account for it, Fund 183, and tariff collections under the so-called minimum access volume were to be lodged in it until 2015.
ACEF loans are free of interest charges and collateral free and would have been a big boost to the farming sector which, according to data from the Philippine Agricultural Statistics, grew by a mere 0.8 percent in 2015 “No ACEF releases for new proponents were made since CY 2010,” the COA report said.
The primary beneficiaries of an ACEF loan are farmers of products with quantitative restrictions such as rice and corn. The minimum amount for an ACEF loan is P150,000.
Among those eligible for an AECF loan are: farmers and fisher folk cooperatives; micro-, small- and medium enterprises that are in agriculture, aquaculture and forestry; cooperatives and entrepreneurs engaged in projects related to agriculture and fisheries; government organizations, local government units, government corporations that have joint ventures with farmers cooperatives, peoples’ organizations and indigenous peoples; and, academic institutions that have tie ups with farmers cooperatives.
Land Bank of the Philippines was the conduit bank for the ACEF funds.
According to the COA, the ACEF had a low collection rate of 16 percent, collecting only P845 million of the P5.4 billion due.
The P5.4 billion ACEF loans were released to 284 proponents from 2001 to 2011.
The COA said 23 of the proponents that did not pay had profitable operations. The COA said some of the loans were granted to different proponents that have the same owner and had no capacity to pay. (Eileen A. Mencias)