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Improve agriculture to curb hunger – Loren

January 19, 2010

THE GOVERNMENT MUST ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE IN ORDER TO STOP AND REVERSE THE SPREAD OF HUNGER AMONG FILIPINOS, SAID SEN. LOREN LEGARDA, CHAIR OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE.
She blamed graft and corruption and inefficiency for the failure of the government to properly implement laws promoting agriculture, such as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).
Loren cited reports of the Commission on Audit that indicate “that a lot of graft happens during the implementation of various programs such as the rice, corn and irrigation programs. We have spent years investigating the fertilizer scam. Clearly, the COA reports show that government resources have not been spent properly.”
Loren made the statement in commenting on the recent survey of the Social Weather Stations showing that the number of Filipinos who have experienced hunger in the past year had increased to 24 percent of the population.
“That means that 4.4 million households or approximately 20 million Filipinos have experienced hunger for lack of anything to eat in the past year,” Loren said.
“What we see is a failure of the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA). AFMA whose goal is food security clearly did not deliver and never in the years after it was signed into law in 1997,” declared Loren who is also the chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries.”
“Food insecurity has gotten worse. But then how can we expect it (AFMA) to deliver when it has not been properly implemented?” she asked.
“True, we have increased our support for farmers and fisherfolk judging from the budgets we have approved in support of the Department of Agriculture, particularly the GMA commodity programs. In the past few years that the budget for the DA has steadily been increasing, we have heard reports of increased productivity. Yet, these statistics have not effectively reduced food insecurity,” said Loren.
“We are also informed that we have been increasing our rice imports by the NFA (National Food Authority) to ensure sufficient supply. Yet again, apparently, this is not a solution to hunger. After all, according to a World Bank report, most of the NFA rice is sold to the non-poor rather than to the poor.
“Hence, it is important for the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) to establish an efficient and timely monitoring system that scrutinizes the program,” she declared.
“We need to give more credence to the Commission on Audit (COA) reports and proceed from there. We need to identify the weak points and to put in place the appropriate policies to attain the goals of AFMA, particularly food security.
Loren said that the next administration should set a monitoring system that will be used by oversight agencies in both the executive and legislative branches of government in checking the performance of the DA and related agencies.
“I offer the monitoring system that my team in COCAFM is developing this time for use in the evaluation of current and future agriculture and fisheries program implementation. Whoever becomes President in 2010 should make use of it to fulfil AFMA goal of rationally allocating resources for the sector. ”, Loren said.