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Implementation of ACEF Scholarship Program

INQUIRY IN AID OF LEGISLATION ON P.S.R. No. 1452 – “Implementation of ACEF Scholarship Program”, held on Monday, 17 August, 2015, 9:00 Am at the Senator Pecson Room, 2/F Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City

Present during the hearing were Senators Cynthia A. Villar, Chair Committee on Agriculture and Food and Senator Bam Aquino who provided the quorum. Resource persons were, USEC. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, DA Special Concerns; USEC. Antonio Fleta, DA Finance and Administration; RED 8 – Leo Cañeda, the staff of DA in charge of scholarship processing, SUC Presidents from– Cavite State University; Central Luzon State University; Pampanga Agricultural State University; Benguet State University; and Visayas State University and their scholars, among others.

There were 1,130 scholars in 2014 and it was reported that none of them were paid, due to non-submission of the required documents by their State Universities and Colleges or their failure to compute correctly the fees. This has to be corrected, thus the hearing.

The ACEF Fund should be updated yearly because the periods 2008-2011 and 2014 has not been accounted for. There is delay and difficulty in releasing the subsidy/scholarship to the beneficiaries is the delay in the submission of correct documentary requirements and liquidation reports by the State Universities. If a state university has an unliquidated account in previous transactions, the students will be penalized because they will not be given scholarship releases.

Department of Agriculture (DA) should work for the immediate approval of the new guidelines that will govern the scholarship program. The existing guidelines should facilitate and not hinder the promotion of the agriculture scholarship availment to promote agriculture modernization and competitiveness.

The ACEF law had a life span of nine years, which expired in December 2007. It was extended to 2015 through the enactment of RA 9496 on February 28, 2008. The Fund shall be set aside and used primarily to provide grant assistance to qualified beneficiaries while earmarking 10 percent for the funding of a comprehensive scholarship program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary medicine education.

The ACEF Fund consists of all duties collected from the importation of agricultural products under the minimum access volume (MAV) mechanism, including unused balances and collections form repayments from loan beneficiaries including interests, if any. The Fund is automatically credited to Special Account 183 in the General Fund of the National Treasury and its fund releases shall not be subject to any ceiling by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Eligibility requirements are as follows: the student must be a Filipino citizen; incoming college, post-secondary and returning students; he/she must not have any failing grades; he/she intends to enroll at any SUCs and other TESDA-managed post-secondary education and training institutions; he/she must be in need of financial assistance; he/she must be physically and mentally fit to undergo education; he/she must be of good moral character; and he/she must not be a recipient of any government scholarship grant of similar nature.

Agriculture and fisheries for the Filipino youth should be enterprise driven and modern with the use of farm machineries. This will ensure the food security and additional income for our farmers. To keep the children in the farms there should be money in farming.

Moving forward, it was agreed that community service should replace the three year- government service requirement. MOA between the SUC and DA-ACEF should be clarified and made simple. Consultation and regional discussion with DA Regional Technical person should be sought to improve on the program implementation. New SUC Presidents should be oriented on the program mechanics and guidelines. The possibility of an increase in stipend should be studied to make the ACEF Scholarship competitive with the other scholarships available. The processes should be facilitative and not prohibitive and restrictive.

There was an agreement that the ACEF should be extended but with revised guidelines for its scholarship program. On the ACEF Loan portfolio management, an amendment to the law was suggested. The loan should be replaced by a grant to organized group of farmers/fishermen with a maximum amount of PhP5Million for shared facilities to support the development of micro and small farm enterprises.

The hearing ended for lunch around 12:30 pm.