Senate urged to review agriculture budget


http://www.gmanews. tv/story/ 134428/Senate- urged-to- review-agricultu re-budget


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Senate was urged to review the
budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) amid the current
investigation of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante
regarding the alleged fertilizer funds scam.

The Senate should take a closer look at allotments for fertilizer and
seeds subsidies, the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said in a

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee should conduct closer scrutiny on the
inherent flaws of the agriculture department's regulatory and
monitoring capacity to implement its programs, the group added.

The said flaws "cause grave doubts on the department's absorptive
capacity to manage budget increase for rice self-sufficiency program
or FIELDS," the group said.

"Secretary Arthur Yap should also be held for questioning in the
current investigation as the spirit of 'Joc-joc' has not left the
agency and continues to haunt the farmers and ransack the taxpayers of
their hard-earned money," said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, R1 lead convenor.

Irregularities committed in 2004 continued in the succeeding years
especially after the 2007 Commission on Audit report discovered fake
signatures on the list of beneficiaries of the P218.7-million worth of
hybrid rice seeds, certified seeds, farm inputs and fertilizers
support to farmers.

"The agency needs to assure the farmers that the P7B allocation for
Ginintuang Masagana Ani (GMA) Program that includes funding of P1.3B
for fertilizers and P3.8B for seeds subsidies will not be squandered
and will reach the intended farmers beneficiaries, " Cantos said.

R1 has proposed to the Senate the scrapping of hybrid rice seeds
subsidies in the 2009 budget to pave the way for training and
extension of farmers on sustainable and organic agriculture and
provide greater focus on organic fertilizer production at the farm
level rather than buying fertilizers from private dealers.

The group's proposal that is included in the Alternative Budget
Initiative of Social Watch Philippines that was submitted to the House
of Representatives and the Senate also proposed an additional budget
of up to P200M for the agency's regulatory and monitoring mechanisms
across the layers of the DA bureaucracy.

Cantos said Secretary Yap should prove that the enhanced agriculture
budget in 2009 will not give the corrupt officials of DA a better
opportunity for plunder.

"The agriculture department needs to completely win the trust and
confidence of the farmers and the taxpayers by showing that heads do
roll down to the bars of justice and not only given the reprieve of
running out of the country or going on medical leave," said Cantos.

In 2006, the Senate Agriculture Committee recommended that charges be
filed against Agriculture Assistant Secretary Jose Felix Montes in
connection with alleged fertilizer fund scam in 2004. He resigned in
April last year due to poor health conditions.

"We are alarmed that the government continues to beef up the national
seeds support program that is a very ripe source of plunder, without
giving due consideration to other more important investments, such as
irrigation, post-harvest facilities, credit support to farmers and
crop insurance system," explained Cantos.

In a study done in 2004 by Flordeliza H. Bordey of the Philippine Rice
Research Institute, 109 percent self-sufficiency rate can be achieved
2009 if the government will invest in P59 B worth of irrigation,
post-harvest facilities and support to increase yield. - GMANews.TV








Next R1 News | Back to R1 in the News Page



Rice Watch and Action Network

© 2007 All Rights Reserved