How the Masagana 150 proposed by Marcos will be different from the Masagana 99

MANILA, Philippines — When President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announced he would take on the role of Secretary of Agriculture, it was inevitable that his father’s legacy in agriculture would come to mind. Marcos’ farm program that’s easiest to remember is Masagana 99, and Marcos Jr. seems to return to it with entertaining recommendations for implementing a new version – dubbed “Masagana 150”.

How will this new iteration of Masagana 99 be different from the original Marcos, which was called both a success and a failure by the former government officials who implemented it, as well as by agricultural experts?

Undersecretary-designate and spokesperson for agriculture Kristine Evangelista explained the program to Rappler in an interview on Friday, July 22. She pointed out that Marcos had not yet approved the program, but that it was one of the department’s recommendations, in accordance with its number one. running order to increase the production of rice, corn, vegetables, poultry and pork.

“The Masagana 150 is all about increasing yield. We insist that each hectare produces 150 cavans. So this is part of the way to increase the yield of our farmers,” Evangelista told Rappler.

Masagana 150 was one of the programs offered by former Secretary Dar to his successor. During Marcos’ first meeting with agricultural officials, he called it and a similar program called Masagana 200 “good deals.”

“Let’s operationalize them already,” he said then.

Let’s compare the programs.

99 versus 150

If Marcos ends up implementing Masagana 150 in his first year as president, it would be 49 years since his father created Masagana 99.

Simply put, Masagana 99 was a program that offered farmers a package to increase the amount to play they can harvest from their land, which they could afford through a credit program with rural banks, coordinated by the government.

The technology package included high-yielding rice seeds (seeds that produced plants with more grain than other varieties), pesticides, herbicides and low-cost fertilizers. The farmers then took out loans from the rural banks to be able to buy this package.

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Through this package, the government aimed to produce 99 cavans of rice for each hectare planted with to playhence the name.

Masagana 99, launched in 1973, was initially a success. He succeeded in significantly increasing rice production, even allowing the country to achieve self-sufficiency in rice for a few years, according to this exam agricultural policies in the Philippines.

In May 1974, a year after its launch, 36% of the 1.13 million small rice farmers received loans for the program, according to national scientist Emil Javier. Recovery from farmers for the repayment of these loans was 90%.

But by 1980, loan repayment had fallen to 35 percent or less, and only 3.7 percent of smallholder rice farmers were taking out loans. Because farmers couldn’t pay, 800 rural banks went bankrupt, according to former finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III in that famous exchange with presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos.

Dominguez was agriculture secretary in the Cory Aquino administration that succeeded the Marcos dictatorship.

The small rice farmers were in debt. Masagana 99’s reliance on pesticides and herbicides has damaged the environment. The program was abandoned in 1984, 11 years after its promising launch.

Learn from one’s mistakes ?

The country’s current average yield per hectare is 90 cavans of rice, according to former agriculture secretary William Dar in an interview with Rappler before the handover to the Marcos administration. In 2021, the country attained a record harvest of 19.96 million metric tons, which brought the country to a rice self-sufficiency of 92 percent, Dar said.

The challenge for Masagana 150 is to increase this by at least 60 cavans at a time when the cost of fertilizers has tripled, oil prices are contributing to high crop transport costs and the specter of typhoons and destructive pests is still here.

But Evangelista says one of the ways Masagana 150 will differ from Masagana 99 is in its credit program. The Department of Agriculture (DA) now has more experience and a more institutionalized structure for providing loans to farmers.

“Now we have the CAAA, the Farm Credit Policy Council. Even before, he gave loans to our farmers at zero interest. It also involves rural banks to ensure that loans are repaid and it is also something with realistic conditions based on our stakeholders,” she said.

The ACPC was created in 1986, the year of the dismissal of the first president of Marcos. One of its purposes is “to review and assess the economic soundness of all credit programs for agriculture and fishing” and to “synchronize” all such policies and credit programs.

It also has a mandate to increase its funding base and use other means to ensure the sustainability of its funding programs.

One of its existing programs is Sikat Saka, which provides rice and maize farmers with access to credit, in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines. It had a loan program for small rice farmers and micro-enterprises during the COVID-19 quarantine period. It has a credit program for young agri-entrepreneurs and beneficiaries of land reform.

The hope is that with an institution like the ACPC, a proposed Masagana 150 credit program would be better equipped to manage a sustainable loan program for farmers.

But because Masagana 150 is still in the recommendation phase and program details are still being worked out, it’s still unclear how the credit program would be handled.

There’s also nothing definitive about what kind of rice varieties would be prioritized for the program, and what fertilizers and pesticides would go along with them. Will there be studies to ensure that the recommended pesticides do not harm the environment?

“The type of seeds and fertilizers are studied by our rice group because of course sustainability is very important and accessibility to these seeds and fertilizers as well,” Evangelista said.

Any program to boost rice production would involve complementary efforts to improve irrigation coverage and provide farmers with machinery that could help with planting and harvesting.

Masagana 150 is still on the drawing board and the earliest it would have a budget allocation is next year, the year the government budget is the one that the Marcos administration has drawn up. Marcos is still working with the latest budget drawn up by the Duterte administration.

“We are working on the details and the operational plan is very important. Details on how it will be implemented will also mean specifying budget allocations and defining timelines,” Evangelista said. – Rappler.com

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