What is the connection between farm-to-market roads and the government’s response to the Covid pandemic?
Senator and Partido Reporma presidential standard bearer Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson asked this on Monday as he noted P5 billion intended for the government’s Covid-19 response was used to cover funding requirements for the implementation of farm-to-market road projects under the Agriculture Stimulus Package of Bayanihan 2.
“We noticed releases under Bayanihan 2 focused on farm-to-market roads worth P5 billion. Can you explain the connection between these farm-to-market road releases and the government’s Covid response? Parang hindi ko ma-connect (I cannot seem to make the connection),” he said in his interpellation of the DA’s budget.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, who was sponsoring the DA’s budget, replied it could be for improving logistics – triggering laughter inside the Senate session hall.
“We laugh about this but this is no joking matter. This is the national budget of the Republic of the Philippines,” Lacson noted.
Also, Lacson questioned the net 17-percent increase in the DA’s funding for Agri-Machinery, Equipment, Facilities, and Infrastructure program from P11.3 billion to P13.32 billion – with the bulk of the increase for farm-to-market roads from P4.98 billion under the National Expenditure Program to P6.95 billion under the House version of the budget bill.
When asked about such increases, the DA denied being looped into the details of the projects.
Lacson noted that it is a “perennial problem” for agencies like the DA getting added funds for projects like farm-to-market roads but not being consulted about them.
“There are other priorities when they prepared the budget to answer the budget call. They were tedious in preparing the budget. Now, all of a sudden, at the snap of a finger, nawala ang budget, nalipat kung saan (with the funds being transferred elsewhere). This is a perennial problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson reiterated his call for proper funding for research and development, noting DA Secretary William Dar is also an advocate of research.