Agri Dept. says P300-M ACEF money up for release next week

DAVAO CITY — The Department of Agriculture on Monday said it expects some P300 million from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund next week after the moratorium on ACEF loan programs was lifted.   The P300 million is part of the P1.9-billion remaining ACEF, and will be used to modernize the Philippine meat-processing sector.   "We have already informed the Budget Department and I believe that the national government may soon release the funds next week," Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters Monday at the sidelines of the Second Philippine Coffee Investors Forum held at the Marco Polo Hotel here.   According to the Agriculture Department, the money will be used to build cutting floors in Quezon, Batangas, Mindoro, and Bulacan for the postharvest requirements of abattoirs in the country, and establish several cold chain facilities in major fishports.   Alcala said 60 percent of what’s left of the funds will be allotted for grants, 30 percent for loans and 10 percent for scholarships.   There is a need to refocus the ACEF fund distribution to ensure that the target beneficiaries get the assistance they need to be competitive on both domestic and global fronts, the Agriculture chief said.   The forum was sponsored by Nestle Philippines, the country's single biggest coffee buyer and considered the biggest coffee beverage producer in the Philippines.   The ACEF, created by Republic Act 8178, is funded by duties on agriculture products under the minimum access volume mechanism, which the Philippine committed to the World Trade Organization under the Uruguay Round Final Act. The mechanism allows imported products to enter the country at lower than duties as long as the minimum volume is met. — VS, GMA News