Drilon alarmed by sluggish agricultural growth

The maxim “two heads are better than one” may not be applicable for the country’s agriculture sector, said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon who reiterated today his disappointment over the continued decline in the performance of the agriculture sector over the past months.

“I am very alarmed by the dismal figures presented to us by the economic managers insofar as the growth of agriculture sector is concerned,” said Drilon.

“The agriculture sector only grew 0.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, as compared to the 3.2 percent growth registered in the same quarter last 2013, which was still below target,” said Drilon.

“Is the apparent inability of the Department of Agriculture to increase agricultural productivity due to lack of funding or a case of bureaucratic impasse?” asked Drilon.

The Senate leader said, however, that funds for agriculture sector have continuously increased throughout the Aquino administration in an effort to ramp up agricultural productivity.

For 2015, Drilon said the DA will receive P88.8 billion, 11.1 percent higher than its current level of P80.0 billion, which shows an increase of 93 percent from its 2010 level of P47.6 billion.

The bulk of the budget, according to Drilon, will be used to build up the country’s agriculture infrastructure.

“For 2015, the government has allotted P25 billion for various irrigation activities, P14.5 billion for the construction of several farm-to-market roads, and P2.2 billion for the promotion of high value crops, P7.0 billion and P2.3 billion for the development of rice and cord industries, respectively,” pointed out Drilon.

“It appears to me that the consistent prioritization given by the administration to the agriculture sector failed to yield good results for our agriculture sector,” said Drilon.

Drilon said the dismal performance of the agriculture sector is a valid concern, considering that 11 percent of the economy is contributed by agriculture sector and nearly one-third of the nation’s labor force belongs to the agricultural sector,” he stressed.

“There is a clear downward trend in the agricultural sector, and it further went down to only one percent this year due to the effects of the past calamities,” said Drilon.

The Senate chief also lamented the poor living condition of farmers and fisher folks who remain the poorest sector of the society: “Two-thirds of the poorest sector in the society belongs to agriculture sector which should not be the case now given the huge support continuously given by government to the agriculture,”

He thus said there is a need to strengthen and address the various issues confronting the agriculture sector.

Earlier, Drilon suggested that the current structure of agriculture department be reviewed.

“I think we really need to have a clear point man and streamline the DA’s bureaucratic system. They have split the agencies into agricultural departments. I strongly suggest that this should be reviewed,” Drilon said. #