DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has ordered the release of P2-billion worth machineries and equipment stored in different warehouses of the Department of Agriculture (DA) all over the country to farmers and local government units within two months starting Thursday.
This after he learned that there are several unused farm equipment procured under the past administration that were not distributed to farmers due to standing government guidelines issued by former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala that require the beneficiaries to pay a cash equity of 15 percent of the equipment’s value while the government shoulder the 85 percent.
“The directive was issued after I confirmed an earlier report that the total value of farm machineries and equipment which have not been distributed to the farmers or local government units was a staggering P2 billion,” he said in his Facebook post Thursday.
He said he consulted the legal team of the DA to if the cash equity to be paid by the beneficiaries was legal.
“When I asked them (regional directors) why the agency failed to validate whether the intended beneficiaries had the capacity to put up the cash before buying the equipment, everybody froze, unable to find an answer,” he said.
As he waits for the results of his legal team’s review on the guidelines, Piñol said that the equipment are now being released, provided that beneficiaries sign a deed of undertaking that, if the 15 percent equity is legal, they will pay the suppliers by installment over a period of four years.
“Pending the resolution of the legal question I posed to the lawyers, I decided that the equipment must be immediately released or else the government would be placed in extreme disadvantage,” he said.
“With that settled, I issued a stern warning to the directors that I will not allow the procurement of any other equipment without sufficient validation on the capacity of the beneficiaries to handle it and exhaustive social preparation,” he added.
Piñol also vowed to investigate multimillion-peso rice processing equipment across the country that have not been operated yet.
Piñol also found out that there are P100-million worth of agricultural equipment in a 35-hectare compound of the DA in Tupi, South Cotabato, which included equipment bought four years ago.
“Some of the equipment units were bought by the government as long as four years ago while the more expensive ones, including multimillion-peso rice and corn harvesters and tractors, are about a year old,” he said.
Piñol said that Carlene Collado, the officer-in-charge (OIC) director, said they could not release the equipment due to the 15-percent cash equity to be paid by the beneficiaries.
“Honestly, I do not understand why farmers would have to be asked to make the complete payment for machineries procured by the government,” he said.
He said he ordered the director of the DA’s Internal Audit Service, retired Philippine Marines Col. Danny Luna, to do an investigation for possible malversation.
Piñol said he asked for the repair of the equipment.
“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 said.