No less than Agriculture Secretary Emmanual “Manny” Piñol himself has discovered a bulk of unused yet rusting agricultural machineries in a compound of Department of Agriculture (DA) in South Cotabato.
While many farmers of Eastern Visayas have to be content with using the slow moving carabao to plow their rice fields, as the secretary himself saw it few days ago when he visited Catbalogan City, Samar, modern agriculture equipment worth over P100-M have been left under the elements in the 35-hectare compound of the DA in Tupi, South Cotabato.
Some of the equipment units were bought by the government as long as four years ago while the more expensive ones, including multi-million peso rice and corn harvesters and tractors are about a year old.
Sec. Piñol visited the compound yesterday on his way to Gen. Santos City from Koronadal City, South Cotabato where he and two other department secretaries – DILG Sec. Mike Sueno and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana – were guests during the province’s foundation anniversary.
“What I saw gave me a mixed feeling of anger and pity,” he said in his Facebook page post.
“I felt my knees weakened as I toured the huge compound filled with agricultural equipment asking regional DA officials why the farm machineries have not been distributed to the farmers or farmers groups,” he lamented
The person who could have given him the answer, former DA Regional Director Amalia Datukan, was no longer there since right after his assumption as Secretary of Agriculture, he relieved her.
The OIC Director Carlene Collado who is manning the regional post until the appointment papers of the incoming Regional Director Milagros Casis are signed by President Rody Duterte, said that the machineries were not distributed because the farmers could not come up with a 15% cash equity which the DA required from them as their counterpart.
“When I asked to whom should the 15% cash equity go to, Collado said it was supposed to go to the dealer of the equipment to complete the payment,” Piñol sighed.
Collado said that in the guidelines issued by former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, the farmers or farmers group was supposed to shoulder 15% of the cost of the equipment with the DA paying for 85%.
“Honestly, I do not understand why farmers would have to be asked to make the complete payment for machineries procured by the government,” he continued.
The government does not procure on installment or partial payment process. “Today, I have directed the Internal Audit Service, retired Phil. Marines Colonel Danny Luna, to come up with a report on this misuse of government funds and assets,” he said.
In the meantime, Piñol have directed that the equipment be immediately rehabilitated, repaired and repainted and distributed to the farmers or local government units.
He said he will also ask lawyers of the department to study this case and determine the administrative and criminal liability of the officials behind the procurement and non-distribution of these machineries.
“I believe that by keeping the equipment and machineries in the compound unused for a long period of time, government was defrauded of the value of money it spent in buying the said equipment,” he stressed
Worse, farmers were also deprived of 1 to 4 years of increased productivity which could have been achieved had the equipment and machineries been released earlier.
Any which way, it is altogether wrong and immoral.
(Written by Manny Piñol with minor edits)