MANILA-Aklan 2nd District Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., House Committee on Appropriations vice chairperson, on Friday sponsored and successfully defended the proposed 2023 budget of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) worth PHP15.85 billion during the period of debates in the plenary.
During the plenary debates, Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Party-list asked if the DAR could revisit Administrative Order No. 1, series of 2019, which streamlines the processing of applications for land use conversion to further protect the welfare of farmers and other poor land owners.
Haresco answered that the DAR would gladly comply since this is in line with the priorities of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as mentioned in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25.
"A major point of our President's SONA is to have a National Land Use policy to protect the rights and welfare of farmers and poor land owners in line with land conversion projects," Haresco said.
The lawmaker also discussed the importance of recently signed Marcos' Executive Order No. 4, series of 2022, directing the implementation of a moratorium on the payment of the principal obligation and interest of the amortization due and payable by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
Haresco confirmed that ARBs under the voluntary land transfer and direct payment scheme mode of acquisition are covered by the moratorium which removes the heavy financial burden on poor land owners.
DAR's PHP15.85 billion proposed budget is lower than the PHP26.47 billion original proposal it submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) but higher than its current budget of PHP12.62 billion.
Compared to other national government agencies, DAR's proposed budget constitutes 0.51 percent of the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP).
Haresco revealed there remains a need to increase the budget of DAR's support services to farmers, which include loan financing, medical and educational assistance, capacity development and providing modern farm equipment, fertilizers and other farm implements and inputs.
In contrast with the support services of other agencies, the proposed PHP236 million for DAR lags measly behind the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)'s TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) and Government Internship Program (GIP) at PHP15.5 billion or even the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)'s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) at PHP115.6 billion.
"In order for DAR to properly realize its mandate for agrarian reform, we must strive to increase its 2023 budget allocation so that we can help our poor farmers in line with the priority of President Marcos," Haresco said. (PNA)