Farmers’ fertilizer subsidy backed

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE chairman of the House committee on agriculture favors the government’s plan to give fertilizer subsidy to farmers on condition that such assistance would be within the framework of a “cash-for-work program.”

“There should be reasonable conditions attached to the aid,” according to Rep. Abraham Mitra (NPC, Palawan), in reference to the planned P1,500 subsidy to be given to each farmer.

“I think it won’t be asking too much for them to work for a day dredging an irrigation canal, repairing a road, or improving infrastructure they themselves would benefit from. And I don’t think farmers would mind working for a day in exchange for P1,500,” he said, noting that the amount is six times more than the rural minimum daily wage.

Mitra said the subsidy will not be considered a pure doleout because the farmers will work for it.

“If they’ll do the work together, then it becomes paid communal action. They can tell the urban taxpayers who foot most of the bill: ‘Hey, we’d put in work for the subsidy’,” he said.

The congressman said the farmers will consider the subsidy as “hard-earned money” because “they will work for it.”

Under the plan, Mitra said “everything will be transparent because it leaves a paper trail in the form of a payroll.”

He said there will no “ghost recipients because the whole community will know who sweated for the amount.”

Under the plan, Mitra said the government should ensure that the money, which is estimated to cost some P10.5 billion if seven million will receive the P1,500 subsidy each, will indeed be used to purchase fertilizers.

But he noted that the plan will cover only rice farmers, many of whom are land owners themselves.

“What about the farm workers, the ‘manggagawang bukid’ who are more numerous than the land-owning rice farmers. The big challenge is what assistance we can give them, they who are in more dire straits than the farmers they work for,” the lawmaker said.

Mitra said the government should also study ways on how to help landless peasants, the itinerant.