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DA seeks P1-B supplemental budget to ensure food security amid COVID-19

The Philippine agriculture department is now seeking a supplemental budget of at least P1 billion, to finance programs connected to ensuring food security and stable prices given the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it requested the amount in a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea dated Saturday, March 21, 2020.

"We respectfully request for a supplemental budget in the amount of P1 Billion Pesos to support the Department of Agriculture's programs in the next two (2) months in connection with Covid-19, particularly in ensuring food supply availability and price stabilization," Agriculture Secretary William Dollente Dar said in the letter.

"While the DA support systems are already in place to ensure food supply availability, we need additional funds to sustain their implementation, especially in areas where the enhanced community quarantine is strictly enforced," he elaborated.

According to Dar, the additional amount will be used to ensure continuous production, processing, packaging, and delivery of basic food commodities to major consumption center, particularly in Metro Manila.

From 12:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, the entirety of Luzon was placed on enhanced community quarantine until April 12, 2020, restricting travel within the region in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Should it be granted, Dar said roughly a third or P325 million of the supplemental budget will be used to upscale the "Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita" project through the establishment of more outlets in partnership with local government units.

"We will also pursue partnerships with government and private agencies interested to set up Kadiwa stores to provide the basic food needs of their respective employees," he said.

The supplemental budget will also be used to finance for the promotion of urban agriculture in Metro manila (P250 million); production support in the form of seeds and inputs (P200 million); support for agriculture workers (P150 million); and monitoring of the suggested retail price (P75 million).

"We commit to make efficient use of the supplemental budget during this challenging time, as this grim episode is indeed a huge challenge for all of us. But let me reassure the Filipino people that the Duterte administration, through the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, is doing its utmost to effectively implement the various initiatives set forth under the enhanced community quarantine," said Dar.

According to the DA, it has already issued some 5,000 food passes to truckers, traders, and logistics firms in line with food security strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19.

"The best way to sustain stable prices of basic farm and fishery commodities is to have a continuous and unhampered movement of such goods from origin to the markets much more in Metro Manila and other metropolis," he said.

"Kaya naman, kailangan po namin ang maigting na dedikasyon at aktibong ambag ng mga pinunong lokal, pribadong sektor at lalung-lalo na ang ating organisadong samahan ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda upang malampasan natin ang malaking pagsubok na ito sa ating bansa at sa buong mundo," elaborated Dar. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News