Magsasaka partylist Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat has cited the need for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to conduct studies before it comes up with the list of priority areas that will benefit from its farm-to-market road (FMR) projects.
During the House of Representatives’ deliberations on the DA’s proposed P66.4-billion budget for 2021, Cabatbat batted for clear guidelines as far as the identification of the FMR projects is concerned.
“I believe there should be studies. There should be value chain analysis, enterprise analysis, and other studies that should be conducted in order to come up with the priority list of places where these farm-to-market roads should be constructed,” Cabatbat said.
Aklan 2nd District Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations who defended the DA’s spending plan for next year, said the DA has guidelines on coming up with the list of the FMR projects.
“In my case in Aklan, we passed through RDC or Regional Development Council process where we go from the barangay, to the municipal, municipal to the provincial and provincial to the regional so all FMRs went through the process of the RDC validation, Mr. Speaker. That is how Regional Director does it for Region 6, Mr. Speaker,” the House leader explained.
Apparently dissatisfied with Haresco’s response, Cabatbat asked Haresco to present data “as to how strict are we implementing this process or this vetting process.”
“Halimbawa (For example), 100 percent of all the farm-to-market roads proposed, how much of these proposed farm to market roads underwent the same process?,” he said.
Haresco cited that DA Secretary William Dar is continuously working on making the vetting process “clear and very equitable.”
“Based on my experience, what I asked three years ago is only coming out this year, so that is the process in Aklan. That’s how they do it in Region VI. I’m sure with the Secretary who came onboard only last August, I’m sure he is continually working on that process, that process should be clear and very equitable,” he said.
“Mayroon po sila farm to market road network planning and monitoring services kaya po siguro sa aking experience tatlong taon, bago ko makuha ang aking farm-to-market road,” he said.
(They have farm to market road network planning and monitoring services, that is why in my experience, it took three years before I get my farm-to-market road.)
Cabatbat expressed hope that all the districts “are following the example of Aklan.”
House leaders had called on the DA to release its criteria in the identification of FMR projects in the legislative districts, take a second look at its listing under the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, and prioritize the listings submitted by the district representatives to ensure “greater equity and responsiveness” to the needs of farmers.
House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, TINGOG Sinirangan partylist Rep. Yedda Romualdez, and Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman scored the DA’s failure to include the recommendation made by the lawmakers as far as the list of the FMR projects is concerned.
“The FMR projects identified by a significant number of Legislative District Representatives have not been reflected in the National Expenditure Program for two consecutive years,” they said in filing House Resolution No. 1209.
“This is clear violation of Section 24, Article 6 of the Constitution which states that “all appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application and private bills shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments,” they pointed out.
Under HR No. 1209, the House leaders called on DA to review the listing included in the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP), and ensure that the list of FMR projects identified by the district representatives will be considered.