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« on: September 26, 2008, 07:28:17 AM »
COCAFM : Looking Forward to Full Implememation of AFMA
The agriculture and fishery sectors strongly believe that the COCAFM would vigilantly exercise its mandates to ensure that AFMA is fully implemented in letter and spirit.

On December 22, 1997, Congress enacted Republic Act 8435, better known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA), which was envisioned to spur productivity in the agriculture and fisheries sectors and make them more profitable and globally competitive.

The landmark law was one of the major accomplishments of the Congressional Commission on Agricultural Modernization (AGRICOM) which was thF-n chaired by Sen. Edgardo Anggara. AFMA was crafted after the AGRICOM conducted comprehensive research, as well as regional consultations with various experts and stakeholders in the agriculture and fishery sectors over a period of more than a year.

Under Section 114 of RA 8435, the law provided for the creation of a powerful bicameral body that will oversee and monitor the strict and successful implementation of AFMA which was named the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM).

COCAFM is composed of the chairs of the committee on agriculture and food of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and six members of the Senate and six members of the House designated by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, respectively.

The RA 8435 granted the COCAFM the blanket authority to oversee and monitor the implementation of the recommendations of AGRICOM as well as programs, projects and activities related to agriculture and fisheries, and its allied concerns in both public and private sectors, with a view of providing all legislative support and assistance within the powers of Congress to ensure their inclusion, whenever feasible, in the national regional, provincial, municipal and sectoral development plans, to recommend the disposal of assets no longer needed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to fund the modernization program and to see them through their successful implementation.

The said law also vested the COCAFM with the following powers:
- Prescribing and adopting guidelines that would govern its work;
- Holding hearings, receiving testimonies and reports pertinent to its specified concerns;
- Securing from any department, bureau, office or instrumentality of the government as such assistance may be needed, including technical information, preparation and production of reports, and submission of recommendations or plans as it may require;
- Summoning by subpoena any public or private citizen to testify before it, or requiring by subpoena duces tecum to produce before it such records, reports, or other documents as may be necessary in the performance of its functions;
- Using resource persons from the public and private sectors as may be needed;
- Continuing the winding up work of AGRICOM, such as editing and printing all technical reports and studies as well as bibliographic cataloguing of its collection of resource materials, continuing its information and advocacy work;
- Approving the budget for the work of the Committee and disbursement therefrom, including compensation of all personnel.
- Since its creation, the COCAFM had been chaired by four senators namely Senators Sergio Osmena III, Manuel Villar, Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. and Angara, the current chair.

At present, the other members of the COCAFM are Rep. Abraham Kahlil Mitra, co-chair; Senators Rodolfo Biazon; Juan Ponce Enrile; Gregorio Honasan; Loren Legarda; Francis Pangilinan; Juan Miguel Zubiri; Representatives Rodolfo Antonino; Leonila Chavez; Erwin Chiongbian; Salvador Escudero III; Nur Jaafar and Manuel Zamora.

Dr. Paciencia Milan, COCAFM executive director, is the head of the secretariat which provides the administrative support and performs all liaison, documentation, advocacy and communication activities for the committee.

While continuing the activities of its predecessor, the COCAFM of the 14th Congress has started moving to implement a work program in line with AFMA to help strengthen the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the country and effectively use it in poverty alleviation and economic development.

We’ve got to step up modernizing agriculture in the country, not only to secure food for our people but to provide the most effective weapon against hunger and poverty,” Angara says.

“But food self-sufficiency cannot be achieved given the low level of investment in our agriculture sector. We’ve got to make our agriculture sector more productive to meet the increasing demand of our people especially since we have to feed too million Filipinos by 2010,” Angara, who also chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food stresses.

For his part, Mitra voiced out his observation saying that the high cost of farm inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and irrigation is also forcing many farmers out of business.

“We have a situation where our farmers would rather do something else other than tilling their farms for food production because they cannot afford the high cost of farm inputs and postharvest expenses,” Mitra says.

“The implementation of AFMA should be revisited. Current non-compliance with AFMA funding has hampered the implementation of AFMA to its full potential. Designed to provide a comprehensive policy for the agriculture sector, the AFMA has been paralyzed by lack of financing. Government has failed to comply with the legislated funding for AFMA,” Angara says.

The law provided that in the first year of the implementation of AFMA, the amount of Php2o billion would be appropriated. It also mandates the Department of Budget and Management to include annually in the next six years, in the President’s program of expenditures for submission to Congress, and release, an amount not less than Phpi7 billion for the implementation of AFMA.

“From 1999 to 2008, a total of Php133.76 billion has been programmed under the AFMA, but had the AFMA budgetary provision been followed en tote, this should have been Php173 billion. That means Php39.24 billion has been appropriated through AFMA legislation but not used to fund more irrigation, post-harvest facilities, and cutting edge researches to agriculture,” the senator said.

Former under secretary for agriculture Ernesto M. Ordonez noted “that since AFMA’s implementation from t998 to the present, our agriculture gross value added (GVA) has increased by an average 3.7%. This is approximately three times the 1.2% agriculture GVA recorded in the prior two decades.”

“However, we could have (lone much better if we had implemented AFMA. properly,” he said.

The seven-year life span of AFMA was supposed to expire sometime in year 2004. However, Congress enacted Republic Act 9281, and was approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 30, 2004, which extended the provision of funding support for AFMA implementation up to the year 2015.

The COCAFM, as priority action this year, has directed the DA to formulate a five- year comprehensive agricultural and fisheries development plan. The bicameral body also worked to increase the budget for agricultural research and development.

The COCAFM also commissioned three prestigious institutions to conduct a comprehensive assessment and review of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to help Congress decide on whether or not to extend the program. Likewise, the COCAFM will set tip a monitoring and impact assessment mechanism on the implementation of AFMA.

“We will evaluate what AFMA has really achieved. Did agriculture gain or lose? What has the competitive fund achieved? Did the farmers gain some measure of competitiveness or they did not? We do not have this kind of mechanism right now,” Angara said.

To partly offset the failure of the DBM to appropriate the legislated funding for the implementation of AFMA, the COCAFM makes sure that the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) would be utilized properly for agricultural modernization projects. ACEF is one of the sources of funds for AFMA-related projects.

The COCAFM is currently discussing with the Association of Colleges in Agriculture in the Philippines thru its president for a national consultation on AFMA and food security and poverty alleviation issues. Likewise, the COCAFM is planning to conduct a regional consultation with the DA regarding AFMA compliance.

The COCAFM is also coordinating with the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC) on the implementation of the Young Farmers Program (YFP) particularly on the monitoring of YFP projects and the status of payment of loans by the beneficiaries.

The bicameral body is also pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 2331 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Bill which was introduced by Angara. The bill, among others, calls for the strengthening of the Agricultural Training Institute and transform it into Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Agency (PAFEA).

The COCAFM is also looking forward to develop agri-ecotourism per province in coordination with the DA, Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Tourism, Trade and Industry.

Under the chairmanship of Angara, the agriculture and fishery sectors strongly believe that the COCAFM would vigilantly exercise its mandates to ensure that AFMA is fully implemented in letter and spirit by all concerned agencies and institutions, in order to achieve and sustain agriculture and fisheries growth, and in turn reduce poverty.


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