By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar is seeking an inquiry into the state of the government’s Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) amid supposed complaints that scholars do not receive their benefits.
In her Senate Resolution No. 1011, Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, cited reports from beneficiaries of the ACEF “that they have not received any of their benefits due to complications in the application process, absence of a general list of scholars to be paid, among others.”
The senator recalled writing to the Department of Agriculture in November 2018 to ask for an update on the implementation of the scholarship program. A copy of the letter was also sent to the CHED.
“But to this date, we have not received a reply,” Villar said in her resolution.
The ACEF, created in 2008, is a lending program of the government to increase the productivity of farmers and fisherfolk by providing the necessary credit to farmers and fisherfolk and their cooperatives and associations, and micro and small-scale enterprises.
The law also stipulated that 10 percent of the ACEF should be allocated to Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to implement a grants-in-aid program to promote agriculture and food security, by enticing students to enroll in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and veterinary medical education.
Republic Act 10848, enacted in 2016, extended the ACEF to 2022 to “produce quality and competitive graduates” to help the country’s agricultural sector.
But Villar said the “CHED and the DA have been remiss considering so much time has elapsed to act on their obligation for students and the agriculture sector in general.”
She said scholars’ concern should be addressed “as soon as possible.”