MARIANO: LET’S NOT PIT THE POOR AGAINST THE POOR, DAR calls out Nograles’ proposal to reduce DAR budget to fund free tuition law

news national 1 pix 1 aug 14 2017Representative Karlo Nograles’ proposal to reduce the proposed P10.28-billion budget of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the funding of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is ‘state abandonment and it pits the poor against the poor,’ said DAR chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano.

Based on the fund utilization report submitted by DAR to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the 2016 unobligated allotment as of December last year is only P2.34-billion as compared to the P5-billion quoted by the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations.

“Free tuition is equally important as students are enabled to exercise their right to education. Agrarian reform is founded on the right of landless farmers and farmworkers to directly and indirectly own the lands they till,” Mariano said.

In the 2017 DAR report, the agency’s budget was allotted for the delivery of its three major outputs – land tenure security, agrarian justice delivery and agrarian reform beneficiary development and sustainability.

With the proposed budget reduction, Mariano added that DAR can’t afford to reduce the services delivered to poor Filipino farmers as change has already been brought to the agrarian sector.

Sources from the House of Representatives who attended the deliberation said that the proposal came as a surprise considering that most members of the committee and other representatives proposed to augment DAR’s budget during the hearing of the agency’s proposed 2018 budget.

The agency is proposing an increase of 48 percent or P16 billion for 2018 from P10.8 in 2017. Mariano said that the agency’s proposed budget does not even comprise a percent of the P3.767-trillion national budget in the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“We recognize the right to education of the Filipino youth, but why source funds from the sector that also needs more government support?” Mariano asked. “To fully emancipate all landless peasants from the bondage of the soil, all forms and remnants of feudalism and other types of unjust tenurial arrangements must be completely abolished,” he added.

The DAR chief explained he believes in the good intention of Rep. Nograles to find possible sources of funds that will support the free tuition law. However, he asserted that the agrarian reform program is equally important as this ensures social justice for the poor farmers and tillers of the land, and the realization of genuine agrarian reform with free distribution of lands as the basic principle and central goal.

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