National, local governments to work together to boost agri production

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno has said the national government will closely coordinate with the local government units (LGUs) to fulfill the goal of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of increasing production in the agriculture sector, while continuing to import rice and other staple food products as an immediate measure to keep prices reasonable and affordable for consumers.

According to Secretary Diokno, LGUs now have the financial capability to help boost food production following the implementation starting this year of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling that increased their share in the national tax collections.

In the Mandanas-Garcia petition on the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of LGUs, the SC ruled that the share of the local governments should come from 40 percent of all national taxes collected by both the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

“Under the current setup, the agriculture extension work is the responsibility of the local governments. So maybe, [there has to be] coordination with the local governments which incidentally have a lot more money now because of the Mandanas ruling. So there will be, maybe, a friendly competition among the local governments to boost [the production of] agricultural products,” Secretary Diokno said during a recent interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

The IRA share of LGUs came only from the taxes collected by the BIR under the old system. With the implementation of the SC ruling, the IRA was renamed as the National Tax Allotment (NTA).

A report by the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) to the DOF during the previous administration showed that the total current operating income of LGUs rose by 19.4 percent in the first quarter of 2022 alone to P319.42 billion, compared to the P267.55 billion reported in the same period of 2021. The BLGF attributed this increase to the implementation starting this year of the SC ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia case.

Secretary Diokno said that while the demand for certain food products exceeds supply, the government will continue to import them.

Increasing agricultural production and importation will “go hand in hand” in ensuring the stability of the supply and prices of food, Secretary Diokno said.

President Marcos Jr., who has decided to head the Department of Agriculture (DA) at this time, recently announced that the government will continue its policy of importation as a price stabilization measure while quickly proceeding with plans to increase production and efficiency in the agriculture sector.

“[The President has] been looking into the individual subsectors, such as rice, corn, high-value crops, and fish. They have to look at each of these subsectors to increase production in the agricultural sector,” Secretary Diokno said.