Press Release
September 16, 2015

Villar ensures only legitimate farmers and fisherfolks will benefit from ACEF

Sen. Cynthia Villar sponsored today the committee report on the bill seeking the continued use of the fund that will help farmers and fisherfolks improve their production and competitiveness.

The Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) is set to expire in December 2015.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, sponsored Senate Bill No. 2951 under Committee Report No. 251, which seeks to extend the life of ACEF up to year 2020.

"In drafting this bill, we make sure that strict guidelines will be put in place and only legitimate farmers and fisherfolks will have access to the funds," Villar said.

During the hearing on the bill presided by Villar, it was discovered that majority of individuals who availed of the loan under the ACEF program were businesspersons and not small farmers and fisherfolks as originally envisioned.

Of the P5.8 billion released as loans, the Department of Agriculture was only able to collect 18% from borrowers.

"This is why ACEF miserably failed in achieving its objectives. The funds did not go to intended beneficiaries. Instead of scrapping the fund altogether, we are pushing for a law that will make sure the funds will be spent for the sole purpose of improving the productivity and competitiveness of small farmers and fisherfolks," she added. The bill amends Republic Act 8178 otherwise known as "An act replacing quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products, except rice, with tariffs, creating the ACEF, and for other purposes."

Under the bill, the fund shall be set aside and released for the increased productivity of farmers and fisherfolks by providing the necessary credit to farmers and fisherfolks cooperative and associations, and micro and small scale enterprises, for the acquisition and establishment of production, post-harvest, and processing machineries, equipment and facilities.

Eighty percent of the fund will be set aside for loan with minimal interest. Only P5 million per project loan will be released strictly for the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and post-production, and processing, machineries, equipment and facilities to achieve modern agricultural practices.

The loan beneficiaries shall provide a counterpart fund of not less than 10% of the total project cost, which may be in the form of capital outlay, labor, land for the project site, facilities, equipment, and salaries. The Land Bank of the Philippines shall manage the credit facility funded out of the fund and shall determine the eligibility requirements and set the required loan security or collateral of loan beneficiaries.

Ten percent will be set aside as grants for research and development of agricultural and fishery products, and the commercialization of such, including the upgrading of research facilities of qualified state universities and colleges, which shall not exceed P5 million per project.

Ten percent will be used for the funding of a comprehensive and attractive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

To ensure the attainment of the objectives of the fund, an ACEF Executive Committee will be created. It will be composed of the Secretary of Agriculture as chair; President of Land Bank; chairperson of CHED; representative of farmers associations and cooperatives; and representative of fisherfolks association and cooperatives.

The Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization will also continue to perform oversight function over the implementation of ACEF.

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