Watch '09 agri inputs budget, Senate urged
Businessmirror, 20 November 2008
Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter


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THE Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) is asking the Senate to review
the P39.7-billion budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for
2009, particularly the fertilizer and seeds subsidies, amid the
current investigation of former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn
"Joc-joc" Bolante in relation to the alleged fertilizer- funds scam.

R1 also called on the Senate blue-ribbon committee to conduct closer
inspection of the inherent flaws of regulatory and monitoring capacity
of the DA in implementing its programs.

"Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap should also be questioned in the
current investigation, " said R1 lead convenor Jessica Reyes-Cantos.

Cantos noted that the alleged irregularities committed in 2004
continued in the succeeding years, as evidenced by the 2007 Commission
on Audit report which found fake signatures on the list of
beneficiaries for the P218.7-million worth of hybrid-rice seeds,
certified seeds, farm inputs and fertilizer support to farmers.

"The agency needs to assure farmers that the P7 billion allocated for
the Ginintuang Masagana Ani Program that includes funding of P1.3
billion for fertilizers and P3.8 billion for seeds subsidies will not
be squandered and will reach the intended farmers-beneficiari es," said

R1 has proposed to the Senate the scrapping of hybrid-rice seeds
subsidies in the 2009 budget to pave the way for the 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.

Cantos said 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," she said.








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