AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee filed a bill strengthening local government participation in agriculture development by institutionalizing a minimum of 10 percent allocation from their National Tax Allotment (NTA) for the implementation of programs, activities and services for agriculture and fisheries.
In filing House Bill 7597 or the “Local Agri-Fisheries Development Act," Lee maintained that the agriculture and fisheries sector must get its fair share of public funding to attain the country’s food security and redeem itself as an agriculture powerhouse, at par with other ASEAN countries.
“Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in our society, not just in providing jobs and livelihood, but also in ensuring that there is food in every household in the country. Kung hindi natin tututukan ang sektor na ito, gutom ang aabutin hindi lang ng agri workers, kundi ng buong bansa,” (If we don’t focus on this sector, hunger will reach not only the agri workers, but the whole country) Lee said.
“Our initial advantages in agricultural research and productivity have been lost and the agriculture sector has weakened in the last two decades. Local government units (LGUs) can play a crucial role in transforming the agriculture and fisheries sector,” he added.
Under the Mandanas-Garcia case ruling of the Supreme Court, LGUs ought to have a higher budget that can directly provide interventions to their local needs. In this new fiscal regime, there is a strong case to be made for greater prioritization and just share of the agricultural sector for its growth and development.
Under HB 7597, local agriculture development programs shall focus on areas which contribute to the competitiveness of the sector. These include the availability and production of seeds, livestock, fingerlings, and other farm and fishery inputs, mechanization and post-harvest equipment and facilities, communal irrigation systems and maintenance, marketing of products, credit, guarantee, and agriculture insurance, knowledge of better farming systems, and knowledge of organic farming, among others.
The initial funding requirements to implement this Act shall be charged against the current appropriations of the LGU. Thereafter, the needed funding for the implementation of this Act shall be included in the yearly budget of the LGU from their NTA. Maricel V. Cruz