By LLANESCA T. PANTI, GMA Integrated News
Senator Cynthia Villar on Thursday decried the P1 billion combined cut in the proposed 2024 budget of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and the National Dairy Authority (NDA), saying it will make affordable locally-produced milk inaccessible to the poor children.
Villar noted that from the P1.2 billion in 2023, the PCC’s budget was reduced to P711 million under the proposed 2024 budget. On the other hand, the NDA’s 2024 proposed budget was only P272 million from P856 million in 2023
“As it is, our milk production is only able to supply 1% of the country’s demand for milk. The 99% are all imported. I have been telling you that for the longest time. I cannot understand….these agencies have been established in the 1990s, it has been 30 years and we are at 1%. We have a problem on milk,” Villar said during the Senate committee on finance hearing on DA’s proposed budget for 2024.
“Kapag 1% ang production ng milk, ibig sabihin, ang mga batang mahihirap, hindi pa iinom ng milk. Kapag hindi mo pinainom ng milk, mahirap na nga, hindi pa tatalino, eh di wala nang pag pag-asang paglaki ay medyo mag-middle class man lang sila kasi magaling na sila at nakapag-aral na sila. Iyon lang naman habol ko dito,” Villar added.
(If our milk production is only at 1%, then poor children won’t be able to drink milk. If they can’t drink milk and they are poor, they won’t get smart, there will be no hope for them to rise to middle class when they grow up. That is my point here.)
In response, Agriculture Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla said the DA, being the mother agency, asked for a higher budget for 2024, but this was not approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“The proposal that the DA provided…submitted to DBM for the NDA is P1.3 billion but we were given P272 million. For the Carabao Center, we requested P1.4 billion but we were only given P711 million,” she said.
“We wrote to request for an additional budget for these agencies, but they stuck to what they already provided. For the NDA operations, we lost P218 million and for the Carabao Center’s herd buildup, nawala po (there is no budget),” she added.
To which Senator Nancy Binay quipped, “Paano tayo magkakagatas kung walang herd build up [budget]?”
(How can we produce more milk when there is no funding for herd buildup?)
Villar and Binay then agreed to introduce amendments to increase the budget of these agencies.
“We would ask your help [here]. Because milk is very important for the young. Kasi gusto nating lumaking matatalino ‘yung mga anak natin, lalo na ‘yung mga anak ng mahihirap. Hindi bale ‘yung anak mayayaman, pwede nilang ibili ng milk kahit imported. Pero ‘yung anak ng mahihirap sa probinsya, walang panggagalingan [ng gatas],” Villar said.
(We want our children to grow up smart, especially the poor children. The rich families can always buy imported milk for their kids, but the poor children espcially in the provinces, where would they source their milk?)
“Tulungan ninyo kasi kawawa naman. Mahirap na nga hindi ninyo pa patatalinuhin di lalo namang continously maghihirap sila, ‘di ba? So maybe Undersecretary Sombilla you can look for other portions of the budget which we can allocate to NDA and Carabao [center],” Villar added.
(You should help them because that would be such a pity. They are already poor and they won’t be smart if this will continue. The cycle of poverty will go on.)—AOL, GMA Integrated News