DA urged to scrap hybrid rice subsidy
5 July 2010
A group has urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd and newly appointed Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to scrap subsidies for hybrid rice, remove officials allegedly responsible for fund scams, and investigate corruption charges involved in the seed subsidy program. “We appeal to the new administration to evaluate the current strategies of the Department [of Agriculture] to achieve the self-sufficiency targets with Frisco Malabanan, the current director of the Rice Program [who is setting] his eyes anew on subsidizing hybrid rice technology despite its failure to sustain rice productivity,” Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) lead convenor Jessica Reyes Cantos said in a statement.
“Aside from this, the DA [Department of Agriculture] has to investigate also and get rid of the officials and personnel involved in the fund scams that were obviously not the handiwork of [former] DA Undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante alone,” she added.
The group has urged the new administration to review the Agriculture department’s programs for achieving self-sufficiency within three years.
According to Cantos, the Agriculture department has been consistently unsuccessful with its targets in the past years, capped by the 8.7-percent production shortfall in 2009. The agency aimed to hit a palay (unhusked rice) production of 17.8 million metric tons last year to contribute to the 5-year self-sufficiency plan under the FIELDS program of the past administration.
“Despite a whopping P10-billion allotment for the Department’s Rice Program and P17.5 billion for irrigation, the overall production reached 16.3 million metric tons only in 2009,” the Cantos said.
For this year, the government’s target palay production is pegged at 17.4 million metric tons. To remain on track with the self-sufficiency targets by 2013, the country needs to produce 18.6 million metric tons this year, the group said.
“The DA officials will certainly blame the successive Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that hit the country last year. Secretary Alcala should then question Malabanan and the other DA officials responsible for the rice program, how they intend to achieve productivity by promising again the benefits of hybrid rice when the rice farms and farmers face the real threat of getting hit by another extreme weather event,” Cantos said.
The group wants Alcala to conduct an audit the department’s budget for rice program, irrigation, and other line items that have relatively higher allocations.
“The investigation of the fertilizer fund scam should extend to current programs, particularly the subsidies on hybrid rice as well as the DA officials who continue to promote this program despite its failed contribution to secure the food of the people. We ask the good Secretary to temporarily relieve Malabanan while the investigation is ongoing,” Cantos said.
According to R1, Malabanan is seeking an additional budget of P12 billion for the rice program despite the P3.1-billion cap.
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