It’s not your money! Farmers ask DBM to release ACEF credit funds
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was told to immediately release the remaining funds of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to address the urgent needs of farmers for credit.
In a statement, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) claimed that billions of ACEF, which is a collection of import tariffs on certain agricultural products, was held hostage by the DBM.
Records indicate that the ACEF had a fund balance of P5.15 billion as of May 2018, of which the allocation for credit amounted to P4.12 billion. Of this, DBM released P1.28 billion for Land Bank of the Philippines’ (LANDBANK) credit program in 2018 and remitted a second tranche of P1.44 billion in early 2020, leaving a balance of P1.4 billion.
FFF said the available fund balance could be significantly higher now since additional tariff collections since May 2018 have not yet been taken into account.
Under the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, or RA 8178, ACEF is placed in a Special Account under the National Treasury. This should be used to enhance the competitiveness of local producers affected by trade liberalization when the country joined the World Trade Organization in 1995.
FFF said that some farmers have started to criticize the Department of Agriculture (DA) and LANDBANK officials for encouraging them to apply for loans only to find out that no more funds were available.
This, since DBM has yet to release the remaining ACEF funds despite repeated and urgent requests.
Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager, argued that there should be no delay in the release since the funds have been in the Special Account since 2018.
“While we understand that DBM should release the ACEF in tranches based on actual demand and usage, it should not withhold funds when the releases have already been exhausted and there are still pending loan proposals,” Montemayor said.
He also noted that RA 10848 contained a key provision that stated that “fund releases shall not be subject to any ceiling by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).”
He said that the National Treasury may be charged with fund diversion if it has used the ACEF for unauthorized purposes.