MANILA, Philippines - State-run think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) is pushing for the regular review of the Registry Service for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) to prevent misallocation and under allocation of funds.

The registry – created under the Aquino administration – is a list of farmers, farm workers and fisherfolks in 75 provinces excluding the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) used by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to reach target beneficiaries of various agricultural programs of the government.

In a discussion paper titled “Evaluation of the Registry Service for Basic Sectors in Agriculture,” PIDS said there are legitimate agricultural producers excluded from the list because of improper collection of data.

The farm sector registry is also not linked to other government databases, making coordination between related agencies difficult.

“Making the RSBSA a working and functional registry for those in the agriculture and fisheries sector can be an efficient program targeting tool, provided that proposed improvements will be materialized,” PIDS said.

From fiscal years 2013 to 2016, the registry was used as the basis for providing assistance through various agricultural programs such as the insurance program of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC), and the Agriculture and Fisheries Financing Program (AFFP) of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and People’s Credit and Finance Corp. (PCFC).

Registration of beneficiaries was done at the barangay level. Hired interviewers made house-to-house visits and conducted face-to-face interviews as supervised by the barangay secretary. Data collected were submitted to the municipal planning and development coordinator and are forwarded to the National Statistics Office for data processing.

The basic sectors in agriculture pertain only to crop and animal production, aquaculture and fishing. Activities related to hunting, forestry and logging are not considered as basic sectors in the registry.

A major fault in the registry is the lack of counterchecking process on the identity of the beneficiaries listed in the registry, the PIDS noted.

The definition of farmer in the registry is also unclear.

This makes it difficult for PCIC to determine farmers entitled to insurance as not all farmers registered in the RSBSA have “insurable interests.”

“It is possible that both the farm worker and farm katiwala are listed in the RSBSA,” the PIDS said.

Discrepancies in the RSBSA also made it more difficult for the LBP PCFC to move the P1 billion budget programmed for the AFFP. Such discrepancies include the lack of technical specifications needed to administer several programs such as land hectares owned or cultivated, agrarian reform beneficiary status etc.

PIDS said even the PCIC was not able to provide subsidized insurance to many farmers/ fisher folk who applied because they are not in the RSBSA list, and some of them were already regular patrons under the regular insurance programs of the corporation.

Because of missing information in the RSBSA, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was forced to undertake its own survey of beneficiaries using the registry as the base, updating the list and expanding the data elements to be able to comply with the international obligation for a registry of fishers and vessels with precise measurements.

“But since many fisher folk were not included in the RSBSA, BFAR said they were not able to get insurance from PCIC,” PIDS said.

Some of the data in the registry also contrasted with those held by agriculture-related government agencies.

Linking the registry with the databases of other government agencies was also difficult, PIDS said.

The registry is also beset by leakages. There are beneficiaries who should not be on the list.

Despite its flaws, the RSBSA remains an important tool for providing agricultural assistance to a targeted populace, the PIDS said.

“Despite its shortcomings, the RSBSA is quite a useful tool as a starting point for the creation of a unified government database in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Field validation of the database is necessary, and preferably done by only one government agency, but if not possible, only one government agency must consolidate the validated lists of the RSBSA,” the think tank said.

PIDS has also recommended updating the registry every three years as the agriculture sector is constantly changing.

“Given the cost of collecting the data for the RSBSA, other options for updating the information should be explored. For instance, the Community-Based Monitoring System that the local government units are implementing could be the vehicle for collecting the necessary information to update the RSBSA. Interoperability of the different registry and monitoring systems should be aimed at to maximize the use of information from different sources,” the PIDS said.

It also recommended adding a unique identifier in the database to ascertain the identities of beneficiaries as well as their activities, the PIDS said.

PIDS said the operational definition of farmer, farm laborer and fisher folk must be reviewed.

“In the case of PCIC, for example, insurable interest is an important concept, so there must be a way for PCIC to initially screen those farmers, farm laborers, and fisher folk that has insurable interest in the registry,” the PIDS said.//

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