An agricultural program designed to extend funding to small farmers and fisherfolks has just been given a new lease on life, according to Senator Cynthia Villar.
The Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund will be good up to year 2022 as a result of President Benigno Aquino’s signing into law the enabling measure known as Republic Act 10848, which took effect May 23, 2016.
“We are confident that with the strict guidelines now in place, ACEF will be effective and will only work for the benefit of legitimate farmers,” Villar said.
Under the law, 80 percent of the fund will be set aside as loan to micro and small enterprises with minimal interest. Only P5 million per cooperative and P1 million per individual will be released strictly for the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and post-production, and processing, machineries, equipment and facilities to achieve modern agricultural practices.
Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food and principal sponsor of the measure, said this law is needed to help farmers and fishermen improve their production and competitiveness, especially with the Asean economic integration.
“In our hearings, we were able to pinpoint the reasons why ACEF failed to deliver on its promised objectives. These lessons served as guideposts in coming up with a program that will truly work for the noble intention of improving the competitiveness of the agriculture sector,” Villar said.
The law amends Republic Act 8178 as amended by RA 9496, otherwise known as “An act replacing quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products, except rice, with tariffs, creating the ACEF, and for other purposes.”
The new law mandates that funds shall be set aside and released to provide the necessary credit to farmers and fisherfolks cooperative and associations, and micro and small scale enterprises, for the acquisition and establishment of production, post-harvest, and processing machineries, equipment and facilities.
The loan beneficiaries shall provide a counterpart fund of not less than 10% of the total project cost, which may be in the form of capital outlay, labor, land for the project site, facilities, equipment, and salaries.
The Land Bank of the Philippines shall manage the credit facility funded out of the fund and shall determine the eligibility requirements and set the required loan security or collateral of loan beneficiaries.
Ten percent will be set aside as grants for research and development of agricultural and fishery products, and the commercialization of such, including the upgrading of research facilities of qualified state universities and colleges, which shall not exceed P5 million per project.
Ten percent will be used for the funding of a comprehensive and attractive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).