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Villar cites SAAD as one of the programs combating poverty in the agri-sector

QUEZON CITY, November 17, 2022 – Senator Cynthia Villar, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food cited the Department of Agriculture – Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD) Program and other DA projects as social protection response of the Department for the farmers and fishers in the Visayas and Mindanao, regions remaining to record higher poverty incidence and comprising a large portion of agricultural workers in the country.

The budget marathon deliberations continue with the recently concluded senate session on November 17, 2022, where Deputy Minority Leader, Sen. Risa Hontiveros emphasized the correspondence between the budget allocation and poverty incidence, and agricultural workforce in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

In her interpellation, Sen. Hontiveros laid down her points on the prioritization and the agency’s response against poverty among agricultural workers who belong to the most poverty stricken sectors in the country. “Pangalawang punto po dito, Madam Chair, Mr. President, the regional budget shares also seem not to take account of the share of poor in the Visayas and Mindanao. The DA budget share in the Visayas is 17%, even if 27% of the population is poor. The poverty incidence in Mindanao is 43%, but the DA budget share is only 27%. So this mismatch between need and poverty and resources is most dramatic in the 2023 budget for Regions 5, 11, 8, 6, Caraga, 12, 7, and Region 9. Napakalaki nga po…ng itinaas na budget ng DA, ngunit, sa aming pag-aaral Madam Chair, Mr. President, malaki ang nagiging kakulangan ng distribution ng mga programa para sa buong rehiyon ng Mindanao at sa Visayas”, said Sen. Hontiveros.

(There has been a significant increase in the budget of the DA, however, according to our study, Madam Chair, Mr. President, there is a huge gap in the distribution of programs for the Visayas and Mindanao regions.)

To which Sen. Villar replied, “I just want to make a manifestation, that in addition to the budget of the national government, maraming grants to these regions (several grants are given to these regions), especially Mindanao. There is SAAD, which is Php 725 million for the poor people of Mindanao. The PRDP, the EU grant Mindanao, it is Php 5 billion, and the MIADP is US, USD 120 million – and they are all for Mindanao.”

The SAAD Program is a special project anchored on poverty alleviation, and advancing food security by providing agricultural livelihood opportunities in a holistic approach. This means that the program does not only grant physical inputs but is designed to usher the rural communities into managing the projects. SAAD provides assistance from community preparation, values formation, farmer-group organization and management, food and value-addition production, until the establishment of enterprises and marketing links, coupled with strong monitoring and evaluation activities and technical support that ensure the sustainability of the projects.

To be precise, the Program is locally funded and can be counted as part of the national DA budget allocation for the social protection efforts dedicated to the marginalized sectors.

While the SAAD budget for 2023 under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) amounted to Php 1.1 billion (fisheries sector not yet included), the proposed recast budget is Php 725.4 million. This is a significant percentage decrease of 39.5 from the proposed allocation that was planned to be translated to livelihood projects exclusively targeted to the poorest of the poor communities.

Thus, where Php 822.7 million based on the NEP was allocated to the regions mentioned by Sen. Hontiveros (Region 5, Visayas, and Mindanao), it is now only Php 497.5 million based on the recast budget. This is a significant Php 325 million reduction.

Despite the budget adjustment, the program is still grateful for the pending passage of its Phase 2 implementation, as the national office together with the regional, and provincial support offices, provincial and municipal government units (LGUs), and other concerned partners prepare for the 2023 implementation using the remaining months for a smooth transition and conclusion of Phase 1.

Exclusively dedicating the projects to the marginalized sector, in its Phase 1 term, SAAD strengthened its partnership with other programs and agencies to fight poverty and hunger such as with the Enhanced Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP), DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), and international partnerships with the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and the Good Neighbor International – Philippines, a non-government agency to complement SAAD projects by equipping the farmers associations (FAs) input that cannot be provided by the program.

Senator Villar also noted that programs initiated are not mere “ayuda” or cash assistance but intricate programs designed to capacitate and enhance the beneficiaries through livelihood provisions.

Dalhin natin ang mga programa kung saan naroon ang pinakamaraming mahihirap na magsasaka at mangingisda, kung nasaan ang mga pinakamalaking manggagawa sa agrikultura. Bigyan ng prayoridad ang produksyon…ng mga pananim, na mas may pagkakataon kumita ang mga magsasaka hindi lamang palay. Suklian natin ang kontribusyon sa ekonomiya ng mga rehiyon lalo na sa Mindanao. Dapat pantay”, reiterated Sen. Hontiveros.

(Let us bring the programs to the areas where the highest poverty incidence is recorded among farmers and fisherfolk, where a number of agricultural workers reside. Prioritize [food] production – of [various] crops, and provide opportunities to the farmers to earn a decent living, not only in palay [rice production]. Let us repay the economic contributions of these regions, especially in Mindanao. It [allocation] should be equal.)

Given the chance and sufficient capacity, SAAD shares and already advances the vision of Sen. Hontiveros to prioritize those who are in dire need of government assistance, the farmers and fisherfolk through the provision of food production and livelihood projects to the identified most marginalized provinces in the country. For Phase 2, SAAD will now be more present to the whole of the Philippines covering 619 5th to 6th-income class municipalities and the top-third list in poverty incidence. ###

Writer: DA-SAAD NPMO Information Officer

Photo Source: Senate of the Philippines. (2022, November 16). Senate Session No. 28 (November 16, 2022) Part 2 [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/tnC5nQS2TH8

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