We, together with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala are finalizing guidelines that would leave no doubt that the main beneficiaries of the newly restructured Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF) would be the poor farmers and fisherfolk.
The Department of Agriculture and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) hope to reopen the ACEF facility in the first quarter of 2012. The new guidelines will allocate only 30 percent for loans, while the rest will be directed toward helping poor farmers and fisherfolk in the form of grants and scholarships.
With the new guidelines in place, 60 percent of the ACEF will be allocated for grants and 10 percent for scholarship programs. The DA must now act aggressively against borrowers who owe the ACEF, on order for us to fulfill our goal of using the facility to help out our targeted beneficiaries.
The old ACEF guidelines were open to interpretation, and that could have been an opening for some unscrupulous individuals to abuse the funds. We are now trying to make it clear that the main beneficiaries should now be those looking to venture into agriculture and fisheries but who lack the competency and resources. Let's face the facts: we need more of our countrymen to go into agriculture and fisheries as our farmers continue to age. In a few years, who will till our lands and provide us food? Agri-enterprises can always go to banking institutions. Our farmers can only go to their government for help, and the new ACEF will do just that.