NEDA may approve $450M extra agri fund early 2017 – DA

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects to obtain approval from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) early next year for an additional funding of $450-million for its flagship rural development program.

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In a media briefing, Arnel de Mesa, National Deputy Project Director of the DA-Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) said they are hoping to secure the government’s final endorsement of the plan by January 2017 for negotiations with the World Bank to proceed.

“The PRDP is now in the process of complying with required documents and milestones by NEDA and other concerned agencies for the proposed expansion to be finally approved on the side of the government,” de Mesa said.

He added that new project applications under the additional funding will resume by middle of next year.
“At present, we have already awarded 93 percent of the initial funding, with the remainder to be awarded before the year ends,” he added.

PRDP is a six-year World Bank-assisted project that aims to improve rural economy by operationalizing local-level convergence among agricultural stakeholders, synergizing programs and projects for modern, climate-smart and market-oriented agro-fishery sector.

The project also seeks to benefit the greater segment of farmers and fishers to contribute to the nation’s goal of inclusive growth.

Under the request for additional financing, the DA is also proposing to explore with the World Bank how to further strengthen and sustain the PRDP project-approach and institutional reforms, integrating these into the DA’s regular programming and budgeting processes.

On Monday, the World Bank started its implementation support mission to the PRDP with a kick-off meeting at the DA’s central office in Quezon City.

A team of experts from the World Bank headed by Frauke Jungbluth, the lead agriculture economist and task team leader of the mission, will attend meetings and subproject site visits in the Project’s clusters in North Luzon, which covers the Cordillera, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions; South Luzon, which covers the CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and Bicol Regions; Visayas and Mindanao.

This mission follows the second implementation support mission conducted in April this year, which earned the PRDP a satisfactory performance rating from the World Bank, as it did in an earlier review mission, held in November 2015.

The mission seeks to review the achievements toward the project development objectives (PDOs) and continue the review and discussions on the government’s proposal for additional financing from the World Bank, among others.

At the end of the mission, the DA hopes it will have discussed and agreed with the World Bank and other stakeholders the solutions for technical issues that have arisen since the previous mission.

Infra, enterprise projects

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that as of November 4, 2016, the infrastructure component of the project has so far approved the funding of 354 infrastructure development subprojects worth P17.75 billion and 215 enterprise development subprojects worth P540.67 million.

This translates to 71 of the 81 targeted provinces already having approved subprojects under the main Project and P18.3 billion-worth of assistance for high value commodities such as abaca, coconut, banana, dairy coffee, cacao and goat.

“Most of the approved infrastructure subprojects are farm-to-market roads (FMRs), the equivalent length of which totals to 1,318.11 kilometers, including an additional 226 kilometer-long FMRs with bridges. We have already completed 18 FMRs stretching to 57 kilometers, while 179 FMRs equivalent to 668 kilometers are at various stages of construction,” Piñol said in a statement.

The DA chief noted that aside from the total approved subprojects, there are 330 pipelined subprojects worth P25.17 billion and 222 projects under procurement with a P9.87 billion budget.

He added that several communal irrigation system (CIS) subprojects that cover 150 hectares are already functional and that 47 completed potable water system subprojects are already serving 16,357 households.

For the enterprise development component of the Project, the DA reported that it has already approved 215 enterprises worth P504.67 million. These include microenterprises (formerly called small livelihood projects) mostly proposed in areas severely hit by natural calamities such as the Bohol earthquake and Typhoons Yolanda, Lando and Nona, to help farmers and fishers recover from their lost livelihoods.

“We also have some P971 million-worth of pipelined subprojects under the enterprise development component,” Piñol added.

Harnessing emerging benefits

DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan, who also serves as the PRDP’s national project director, said that while the agency has diligently focused on attaining the Project’s development objectives, the department also wants to highlight the fact that some unintended outcomes have emerged from the Project’s implementation.

“We are in the process of comprehensively documenting these emerging benefits—which may be social, economic and even environmental and political—and we are encouraging our grassroots partners to harness these to optimize future Project outcomes,” Cayanan said.

Among these benefits documented by the Project are improved access to education and healthcare facilities, higher retention rates among students, increased number of tourists, increased real estate value, among others.

Cayanan also pointed out how the tools introduced by the Project has created demand for participation, transparency and accountability and helped LGUs and partner farmer-fisherfolk organizations improve their planning and management practices.

As of Nov. 4, 79 of the 81 targeted provinces already have commodity investment plans, which are based on value chain analyses conducted with the assistance of the PRDP.

Sustaining reforms

Meanwhile, the proposed expansion of the Project has inched toward its approval with the endorsement from the Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee of the NEDA in September this year.

The $450-million (P20.9-billion) proposed expansion of the DA’s flagship platform for modern, inclusive, value chain-oriented and climate-resilient agri-fisheries development will primarily address the current P19.18-billion World Bank loan proceeds shortage for the Project’s rural infrastructure development portfolio.

According to Cayanan, without assured additional resources under the agency, the DA cannot commit to funding the remaining rural infrastructures proposed for under the Project even with equities from the national government and local government units (LGUs).

Besides the lack of internal funding resources from the DA, the agency pushes for the expansion of the PRDP to sustain institutional and governance reforms that the Project has introduced.

“The expansion is vital to sustaining the momentum for mainstreaming governance reforms, not only in the DA but also across partner agencies and LGUs,” Cayanan said, adding that the PRDP has been known to have revolutionized ways of doing business in and with the DA, introducing innovations in enhancing transparency, accountability and participation mechanisms.

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