THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

NAF Council convenes to refine proposed DA 2021 budget, food security strategies

Author: DA Communications Group | 7 August 2020

Top officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other national government agencies, agri-fishery industry leaders, and farmers’ and fisherfolk’ groups — who are members of the National Agriculture and Fisheries (NAF) Council — convened on August 6, 2020, to discuss the agency’s proposed 2021 budget and its accomplishments for the past two semesters.

The NAF Council serves as the highest mechanism for agriculture and fisheries consultations and dialogues between and among national government agencies, local government units, civil society organizations, and private sector stakeholders. It is mandated by law to assist the DA in the broad-based monitoring and coordination of the agricultural and fishery modernization process.

Chairing the meeting, Agriculture Secretary William Dar shared with the council members — via teleconference and physical presence — the 0.5 percent (%) performance of the country’s agriculture and fishery, during the second quarter (Q2) of the year.

“We are pleased with the said unexpected growth, considering the myriad of challenges we confronted, including the imposition of nationwide community quarantine in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

“Said performance was a product of the strong partnership with the local government units, the private sector, farmers’ and fisherfolk’s groups, and other stakeholders,” said secretary Dar, who also serves as Chairman-Coordinator of the NAF Council.

He also cited that the country is enjoying “tamed” inflation as prices of basic food commodities remained stable during the past several months, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DA-Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) acts as the agency secretariat of the NAF Council. The latter also serves as the consultative body where the voice and consensus of agri-fishery industry leaders, farmers’ and fishers’ groups, and civil society organizations, are heard and considered to form part of the policy decision-making process of the DA management.

The DA consults regularly with agri-fishery industry leaders through the NAF Council to gather consensus and vet major programs, including the agency’s proposed annual budget.

“We take our hats off to our hardworking farmers and fisherfolk, who through the years have been performing well, and most particularly during this pandemic. And all our stakeholders are taking the second quarter agriculture sector performance as a challenge to continue doing well in the succeeding quarters,” secretary Dar said.

During the meeting, the DA chief replied to various queries and suggestions of the NAF Council members, who dealt mostly on the DA’s proposed 2021 budget amounting to more than P280 billion, four times than its current allocation.

“We are here in this meeting to appreciate all your ideas, so that in the end we want to unlock and unleash the sector’s potential to improve its contribution to our national economy,” secretary Dar said.

The Secretary also discussed the food security development framework as a basis for all DA programs and initiatives, including the revised medium-term Philippine agriculture and fisheries modernization and industrialization plan. It provides important directions and policy guidance in terms of DA thrusts and priorities.

“The framework, however, is not cast in stone. Hence, we appreciate suggestions and enhancement from all sectors,” said the DA chief during the meeting that lasted for more than two hours.

After his opening message and sharing the agriculture sector’s 2020 Q2 performance, Secretary Dar called in DA assistant secretary Agnes Catherine Miranda, who reported on the agency’s accomplishments, from July 2019 to June 2020.

She highlighted how the DA — in partnership with the LGUs, private sector, farmers’ and fishers’ groups, and other stakeholders — addressed a host of challenges during the year that included the drop palay prices, the African Swine Fever outbreak, fall armyworm infestation, and food production and supply disruptions due to COVID 19 community quarantine nationwide.

Miranda was followed by DA undersecretary for policy and planning Rodolfo Vicerra, who detailed the DA’s proposed P280-billion budget for 2021.

“We must convince Congress that we need higher budget this time around, starting next year, to elevate the performance of our crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries subsectors,” said secretary Dar.

Among the NAF Council members who raised their concerns was Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco, Jr., who is also the current president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines. He welcomed the DA’s proposed 2021 plan and budget, and committed to exert efforts in getting the support of the House of Representatives.

Secretary Dar replied, saying: “We welcome and appreciate suggestions to further improve and strengthen our budget proposal.”

For her part, DA-PCAF acting executive director Liza Battad said they will continue to strengthen the private sector-led national committees — particularly the DA’s national banner program committees (NBPC) — to ensure check and balance in the DA’s policy development process, and promote broad-based stakeholders’ participation.

The NBPCs are parallel with the DA banner programs on rice and corn, livestock and poultry, fisheries and aquaculture, and high-value crops, as well as other cross-cutting concerns like agricultural and fishery mechanization, international trade and export, and agri-fishery youthpreneurs. ### (DA-AFID & StratComms)

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