Malacanang May Have Dipped Hands in P131-B Pork in AFMA

Malacañang may have availed of up to P131 billion in potential “pork” barrel funds from a modernization fund that had accumulated since 2002, opposition Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson disclosed Monday. 

Lacson made the disclosure in his interpellation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Fund (AFMA) in the budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2009 during Senate deliberations on the P1.145-trillion budget for 2009.

“It appears (the DA budget for 2009 is) very small, P3.6 billion, compared with the other budgets of the different departments, it looks pathetic. But if we examine the special purpose funds the portions of the agency’s budget as indicated particularly Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, it is a whopping P35.4 billion and everything is carried under the Office of the Secretary,” he said.

He added that aside from the P35.4 billion AFMA for 2009, the AFMA that had accumulated since 2002 now amounts to more than P131 billion.

Lacson said that if there are no projects identified for AFMA funding the fund will become discretionary on part of the agriculture secretary and President as well.

“I don’t believe the secretary will utilize funds of AFMA without clearance of the president,” he said.

On the other hand, Lacson sought an accounting of the money spent so far for AFMA-related projects.

He said that despite the huge allocation for AFMA, it remains questionable if the agriculture sector had been modernized.

“From 2002 to 2009 AFMA funds accumulated to P131 billion-plus. Looking at the huge funds intended for AFMA and considering main thrust is to modernize agri and fisheries, what have we modernized? We’re still importing rice, fishery is still in disarray. May the Senate be informed of the programs undertaken by the DA through AFMA to modernize the agri and fisheries sector?” he said.

Meanwhile, Lacson called for specific details of some lump sums in the House version of the budget. These included:

* Construction/repair/rehab of new/existing national irrigation systems nationwide, P200 million;
* Small reservoirs irrigation projects nationwide P425 million;
* Balikatan Sagip Patubig Nationwide P200 million;
* Restoration, rehabilitation of NIA-assisted irrigation systems, P6billion;
* Payment of road right of way, P220.8 million;
* Repair operation and maintenance of pump irrigation P116 million;
* Repair, rehab and constructions of farm-to-market roadas in key production areas, P3.65 billion.
* Agriculture projects for various indigenous products and industries, P100 million.