August 16, 2012
ACEF TO BECOME FULLY FUNCTIONAL AFTER COCAFM EN BANC MEETING AUG 16
The COCAFM, under its Chairman Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, has helped resolve the release of P1.9 billion pesos of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF)--60 percent of which is earmarked for grants, 30 percent for approved loans, and 10 percent to scholarships. The ACEF will start processing applications for grants and scholarships starting in September.
In its en banc meeting held August 16 at Club Filipino, DBM Secretary Butch Abad has agreed in principle to release the ACEF to approved loan applications and it will be coursed through the Department of Agriculture. The DA will then coordinate with government financial institutions in expediting the loans and the collection of payment.
"We could not have been more pleased with what we have accomplished in this meeting. We have been discussing the mechanics and addressing the loopholes that have left the ACEF program riddled with corruption and controversies. We know the program could work to benefit the agriculture sector. We commend those who have patiently worked with the COCAFM in rebuilding the ACEF program and making it more relevant in meeting the current needs of our farmers and fisherfolk. Now we have a clearer roadmap for enhancing competitiveness for our small farmers through this new and improved ACEF."
Pangilinan also called on the DA, DBM, DOF and COCAFM to sign a memorandum of agreement to ensure that collected MAVs will go directly to the ACEF or fund 183. From 2007 to 2012, MAV collections were remitted to the general fund of the national budget.
"While we could not, and should not, disregard the unpaid loans and mishandling of ACEF funds in the past, it is important that the program continue and be implemented properly, as this can help improve the lives of our farmers and fisherfolk. Now with the help of all the stakeholders both in the public and private sector, we are now seeing the fulfillment of the mandate of the ACEF."
DA Secretary Proceso Alcala has said in the en banc meeting that it will start processing grant and scholarship applications to the ACEF in September. Under its new guidelines 30 percent of the fund will be alloted for loan and credit, while 60 percent will be alloted for grants and 10 percent for scholarships.
"The timeline between the approval of the new ACEF guidelines to its full implementation and release of funds were done in a little over a year," Pangilinan says. "While we would have wanted it to be faster, we strove to be more cautious on how we ought to release the funds. But without the help of the DBM, the DA, the DOF, and our COCAFM leaders and proponents, we would not be able to yield concrete results. This is just the beginning. With regular consultations and meetings with all stakeholders as this one, we are confident that the full implementation and the proper utilization of the ACEF will positively impact the agriculture sector."
Also present in the en banc meeting were representatives from various agricultural and fisheries cooperatives around the country. Their pleas and recommendations were put on record and will be addressed in future meetings.
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