NIA chief Salazar owns outlet supplying NorMin’s fertilizer subsidy program, says FPA

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 August) – First, it was the wife of National Irrigation Administration chief Carlos Salazar that appeared as the owner of 3K and C, the supplier for Northern Mindanao’s P30-million organic fertilizer subsidy program. Recently, however, an official in Bukidnon who initiated a probe into the matter received a letter from the Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority (FPA) that the NIA official himself owns the business entity.

Lawyer Gavino Barlin, FPA deputy executive director, in his July 2, 2010 letter to former Bukidnon board member and now Valencia City Councilor Glenn Peduche, said:

“It would appear from our records the said organic fertilizer was manufactured by 3K and C Enterprises of Salvacion, Bayugan, Agusan del Sur owned by Mr. Carlos A. Salazar as showed (sic) in the Application for Locally Manufactured/Mined Product Registration, a photocopy of the application is here attached as Annex D,”

The letter, dated July 2, 2010, was noted by Norlito Gicana, FPA executive director.

Peduche on June 2 wrote Sonia Calleja, FPA Northern Mindanao regional director requesting laboratory analysis of samples of the fertilizers distributed to farmers under the program. Calleja endorsed the request to FPA Manila.

The Certificate of Product Registration issued to 3K and C of Green Village, Bayugan 1, Agusan del Sur on December 12, 2007 to produce “Grow Organic Fertilizer” and “Green Organic Foliar Fertilizer” will expire on October 30, 2010, according to a photocopy of the document obtained by MindaNews from an official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to release it.

In the same letter Barlin endorsed the results of the tests on samples of the fertilizers, but the source of the document requested for an embargo pending Calleja’s audience next week with local officials probing the alleged scam.

“At the very least, we are looking at questions of propriety on the case of NIA administrator Salazar in this case,” Peduche earlier told MindaNews.

Based on the minutes of the 17th regular session of the 10th Sangguniang Panlalawigan on June 2, 2010, NIA regional director Julius Maquiling told board members that Regina Salazar, mayor of Lila town in Bohol, and Salazar’s wife was 3k and C’s owner.

Maquiling was quoted as saying Regina’s husband is the NIA administrator.

Maquiling was quoted verbatim in the minutes as saying the Department of Agriculture downloaded funds to the NIA and it was the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of NIA 10- regional office that conducted the bidding.

“I am authorized to conduct bidding for projects worth P25 million. So there’s bidding,” he told the members of the provincial board in the session.

Salazar’s firm bade for a P10-million organic fertilizer project in North Cotabato with an expired Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority permit, according to the North Cotabato E-legislative Portal, as of November 2008.

The firm’s representative at that time said they had a certificate of registration valid until 2010. But the North Cotabato provincial board pointed out that it was not a license to manufacture and sell organic fertilizers.

Maquiling said the FPA permit of 3K and C is still valid.

Farmers interviewed earlier by MindaNews in Valencia City, where the Pulangi River Irrigation System is based, said the fertilizers were already useless when they took it from NIA’s warehouse.

“It was dry and useless,” Nixon Apsay told MindaNews in an interview at his house in Barangay Sinayawan.

Apsay is the president of the Sinayawan G-6 Lateral Irrigators Association, one of the 42 members of the Pulangi River Irrigation System, the biggest of the four irrigation systems in Bukidnon targeted for the project

He is one of the 566 farmer beneficiaries in Bukidnon.

Region-wide, 1,340 farmers were reported to have received a total of 18,317 bags of fertilizers and 6,104 bottles of pesticides in the project’s first three tranches.

Maquiling told the provincial board the second tranche was released.

FPA Bukidnon provincial officer Danilo Negre told MindaNews recently they have issued a “stop use, stop move, and stop sale” (SUMS) order for the last tranche. He reported that 2,700 bags of “grow organic” fertilizers and 3,741 bottles of Green Organic liquid fertilizers are intact.

Maquiling said he would honor the queries of the provincial board “because that’s the process of governance.”

The NIA-10 subsidy package involves fertilizer and pesticide distribution to farmers in Region 10, which comprises the province of Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental.

But the program zeroed in on members of irrigators’ associations, which explains NIA’s involvement.

Emails sent to Maquiling have remained unanswered. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)