• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Emilio “Dino” Yulo III pledged their commitment for the restoration of a P2 billion budget for the implementation of the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) program next year.
This was after the Department of Budget only proposed a P1 billion for SIDA programs in 2024, disclosed earlier by acting SRA chief Pablo Azcona.
As budget is being considered as a local measure, Zubiri said he will work with the Negros bloc in the House of Representatives, which will discuss the proposed budget for next year, on the restoration of P2 billion budget for SIDA.
Yulo, who backs the budget restoration of SIDA, said “the reasonable compromise would be to recommend to the DBM (for) the funding of each component of SIDA, such as the construction of the farm to mill road, scholarships and socialized credit program, bloc farming and mechanization.”
A former SRA board member, Yulo noted that the funds of farm to mill road construction, scholarships, and socialized credit programs, have been 100 percent fully utilized.
With respect to farm mechanization and bloc farming, the solon said “we can compromise… maybe we can be funded to the utilization rate.”
The proposed P1 billion for next year is divided into the following allocations: P485M farm-to-mill roads, P15M bridge construction, P150M bloc farms program, P150M socialized credit program, P150M research and development, and P50M on human resource development program.
As stipulated in the provisions of RA 10659, or Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015, the Department of Budget Management must allocate P2 billion annually for its programs.
Zubiri blamed the previous leadership of the Department of Agriculture for not implementing the SIDA law properly.
Every year, whenever we raised the issue, the DBM tells us that the absorptive capacity of government agencies is low. Since they don’t spend the money, they will only give them what they can spend, the Senate president said.
Zubiri said he will discuss the budget with Senator Cynthia Villar, co-authored of the SIDA law and chair of the Senate committee on Agriculture.*