DA to pursue policy shift that prioritizes financing over subsidies
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) will start shifting its agriculture and fisheries support program from the corruption-prone subsidies to a more efficient and easily accessible low-interest financing program starting next year.
Piñol said this move follows the approval by President Rodrigo Duterte of his recommendation that the DA should start abandoning its seeds, fertilizer and farm machinery and equipment subsidies program, which has been marked with issues of corruption and slow implementation over the years.
The most prominent of these subsidy anomalies was the Fertilizer Scam where under the pretext of buying fertilizers for farmers billions of pesos were released to the different Congressional Districts and Local Government Units, including those in Metro Manila.
Piñol also said that due to the tedious and long bidding process, seeds are often delivered when the planting season is over and the germination percentage has gone down.
“The Lowest-Bidder rule in government procurement also prevents agriculture stakeholders from choosing the best seeds or equipment for them. This process also results in the procurement of low-quality equipment,” he said.
According to him, the subsidy program is also vulnerable to interference by local political leaders who more often than not would make sure that seeds, fertilizers and equipment are given to their political supporters while their political enemies are left with nothing.
Then he said that financing would pave the way for efficient and fast procurement by farmers of whatever they need for their production, including the freedom to choose whatever variety of seeds, brand of fertilizer and kind of equipment they need in their farms.
“I firmly believe that the Subsidy Program is not sustainable because Subsidies are mainly the result of political decisions. The Easy Access Financing Program, on the other hand, levels the playing field,” he further said.