Farmers, fisherfolk laud DA for fuel subsidy

<p><em>(PNA file photo) </em></p>

(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – Farmers and fisherfolk nationwide on Monday lauded the Department of Agriculture (DA) for providing fuel subsidy amidst the increasing price of gasoline caused by the Ukraine-Russian conflict.

In the midst of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, "it is not only the transport sector who are affected, but also the farmers and fishermen who transport their goods in the market on a daily basis. More expenses mean less income to bring to their families. And we support the initiative of the Department of Agriculture for giving fuel subsidy to farmers and fishermen,” said former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez during the virtual press briefing.

Since the Ukraine-Russia war started in February 24, there has been a weekly increase of gasoline. From a prevailing average price of PHP65 per liter of gasoline to as high as PHP86 per liter of gasoline in just a span of three weeks.

The DA issued a Memorandum Circular No. 7, series of 2022, dated March 7, 2022 on the implementing guidelines on the provision of fuel discount to farmers and fisherfolk and allocated PHP500 million. The fuel discount shall be primarily for all machineries used in corn production from land preparation to postharvest activities as well as motorized boats for fishing operations.

Philippine Maize Federation Inc. president Roger Navarro, in the same briefing, said that corn is the first commodity to be liberalized by World Trade Organization (WTO) in the country, of which only PHP700 million was allocated for the corn industry.

“The subsidies given by the government are not distributed to all the corn farmers because the data is not accurate. Out of the 800,000 corn farmers, only a small number receives financial aid,” Navarro said.

“We need post-harvest facilities. From August to September, 60 percent of volume for the whole year is harvested at this time, which accounts for 7 months’ worth of food. We only have a small window of time before the rainy season arrives, which is one month, to dry our crops. We need post-harvest facilities and mechanical dryers to speed up the process. This produces better quality corn. But since we don’t have those, we produce corn that is poor in quality and we get paid less for our harvest because of it. During the dry season, only 30 percent is harvested during the summer, which gives us 5 months’ worth of food,” he added.

Majority of fishermen in the country are municipal fishermen. Every crisis that hits the country, fishermen are among those who suffer the most. These gasoline price hikes are really hurting the fishing sector, said PANGISDA (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Mangingisda) president Pablo Rosales.

According to Rosales, the law states that those who are registered are the ones only qualified to receive subsidy.

“We hope everyone can avail of this PHP3,000 (fuel subsidy); not just those registered fishermen but also those who live in far flung areas. They are the ones who need the money the most. (The) PHP3,000 is a big help for those fishermen who are struggling right now. However, we need clarification from the memorandum. Will those who just recently registered or about to register still receive the money? We need it now more than ever because of the high gas prices,” he said.

While there are initiatives and short-term programs to alleviate the cost of production of farmers and fisherfolk from the government, the group said it should also be emphasized that there should also be an agricultural risk proof plan designed to prepare food producers in all kinds of disaster to lessen its impact. (PR)