Probe on ASF outbreak urged

September 20, 2019

A PARTY-LIST congressman has challenged newly appointed Agriculture Sec. William Dar to do a better job than his predecessors as another lawmaker sought a congressional inquiry into the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country.

This developed as the House Makabayan bloc filed House Joint Resolution (HJR)   18 seeking to allocate an additional P15-billion supplemental budget for the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy 750,000 metric tons of palay from local farmers who have been affected by the Rice Liberalization Law.

Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (BUHAY) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said Dar should perform, specially in protecting the country’s rich aquatic resources as well as protecting the welfare of our fisherfolk.

“Our country has been blessed with abundant aquatic resources, and yet until now, our fisherfolk are still on the lowest rung of our economy. Mahirap na mahirap pa din sila hanggang ngayon.  We tried personally helping them by liberating our water bodies that have been overrun by fish pens and fish cages owned by big corporations and some of them are even foreigners.  But ironically, it was the DA then that prevented us from succeeding.  Now we ask Secretary Dar – do you accept the challenge of doing a far better job in helping our poor fishermen than previous DA managers?” Atienza asked during his plenary interpellation on the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) sponsored by Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Cuaresma.

Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat filed House Resolution (HR) 336 directing the House committee on agriculture and food to probe the SFP outbreak in the country, notably in the provinces of Rizal and Bulacan.

Cabatbat said the House of Representatives should look into the status of ASF proliferation in the country not only to protect the local consumers but also to assess its adverse impact to the hog industry.

“It is the responsibility of the government to take all necessary actions to protect the livelihood of our hog raisers and the hog industry as a whole,” said Cabatbat.

Under HJR signed by 48 lawmakers and principally filed by Makabayan bloc members, Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat, and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, it intended to cushion the impact of the Rice Liberalization and Tariffication Law to farmers.

It directs the NFA to exclusively use the amount to urgently procure at least 750,000 metric tons of palay from local farmers at P20 per kilo farm gate price and sell the NFA rice to consumers at P27 per kilo.

The measure said the P1 billion allocated for Expanded Rice Credit Assistance under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) as part of the Rice Liberalization and Tariffication Law “is certainly not enough to aid our rice farmers, notwithstanding the fact that it requires minimum collateral and imposes minimum interest rates.”

It added the DA Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Rice Farmers (SURE Aid) amounting to P1.5 billion will only provide each farmer P15,000 in the form of zero-interest loans, and will only cover 100,000 rice farmers out of the total estimated 2.4 million rice farmers nationwide.

The NFA, the resolution said, can only purchase 350,000 metric tons or seven million sacks of palay from local farmers at P20 per kilo farm gate price through its current P7-billion budget for buffer stocking for 2019.

“The country is once again entering the harvest season of the lean second cropping. The NFA must be refueled with adequate funds so that it can procure a substantial portion from the coming harvest,” said the resolution.