Local agriculture stakeholders want the remaining P8-billion to P10-billion Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to be converted into grant for common service facilities.
During Multi-sector Agricultural Summit, members of the newly formed Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to use the remaining ACEF funds for the construction of post-harvest facilities—including dyers, warehouses, cold storage and slaughterhouses—to address underdevelopment in the country’s farm sector.
The group also said that the ACEF—a pool of funds collected from taxes on imported agricultural products under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme—have not been maximized for its intended purpose, which is to enhance the competitiveness of vital and critical industries.
To recall, the DA imposed a moratorium in the release of ACEF loans in 2009 due to some observations of the Commission on Audit regarding the utilization of the fund.
Throughout the period, the government crafted revised guidelines for more efficient fund utilization and implementation of the program.
“Billions of poses that could have been used to increase farm productivity, build new irrigation systems, farm-to-market-roads, post-harvest equipment and facilities like slaughter houses and cold warehouses, marketing infrastructure and other forms of public sector assistance, were instead pocketed by politicians,” the group said.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the remaining ACEF fund is currently at the Treasury Department.
“We are still waiting for the release but there is a fund because you cannot use that for other purposes,” he said.
Alcala also urged proponents seeking assistance from the ACEF to align their projects with the DA’s priority programs, particularly in attaining food sufficiency and global competitiveness of the country’s grains, commercial crops, fishery and livestock sectors.
Under Republic Act (RA) 8178, which created ACEF, “the proceeds of the importation of minimum access volume shall accrue to the General Fund and shall be deposited with the National Treasury.”
RA 8178 mandates that the proceeds shall be used to for irrigation, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest equipment and facilities, credit, research and development, other marketing infrastructure, provision of market information, retraining, extension services and other forms of assistance and support to the agricultural sector.
SINAG also opposed the unwarranted grants of tax holidays and other incentives to foreign companies like Charoen Pokphand and New Hope. They also called for the immediate suspension of those involved in the Malampaya and fertilizer fund scams.