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Hontiveros wants probe of DA memo on biofertilizer use


Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros has warned of another fertilizer fund scam after the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued a memorandum order directing the use of biofertilizers.

The lawmaker filed Senate Resolution 608 asking the blue ribbon committee to launch an investigation into DA’s issuance of Memorandum Order No. 32.

“There is a need to investigate the basis for the issuance of Memorandum Order No. 32 on whether the price of fertilizer and cost of urea per bag are indeed high to warrant the insistence of the Department of Agriculture to use biofertilizer… At a high time of prices and looming El Nino, it is imperative to review the policies of the Department of Agriculture on rice production,” the resolution said.

Apart from this, Hontiveros stressed the need to conduct a study on whether the use of biofertilizer instead of fertilizer will improve the productivity of farmers in rice production and whether its use is indeed more cost-efficient for farmers.

“There is a need to investigate this matter to prevent another Fertilizer Fund Scam that happened almost 20 years ago in 2004, where around P728 million in fertilizer funds of the Department of Agriculture earmarked for the purchase and distribution of fertilizers to farmer beneficiaries were allegedly diverted and used primarily for the re-election efforts of a former president,” Hontiveros warned.

“If there are identified individuals involved in this, then the Senate should hold accountable these individuals for possible violation of any law,” she added.

In her resolution, Hontiveros cited a portion of MO 32 which claims that it “aims to improve the productivity of farmers in rice production in spite of the high prices of fertilizers by distributing biofertilizers which will complement the use of inorganic fertilizers and support the balance fertilization program.”

The funds for the project will be sourced from the fertilizer program of the National Rice Program, according to the memorandum as cited by Hontiveros.

The same order also provided that the use of two bags of inorganic fertilizer urea per hectare costs P4,000 while its “selected biofertilizer can substitute for at least two bags of urea without sacrificing the yield,” Hontiveros said.

Further, Hontiveros said that the order provided that “theoretically, a savings of more than P2,000 per hectare can be realized if the cost of biofertilizer is less than P2,000 per hectare” and “if the fertilizer chosen by the DA-RFOs is less expensive, the fertilizer savings is increased.”

However, Hontiveros cited information from Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) and media reports claiming that there is no basis for the issuance of such order. Contrary to the claim of MO 32 of P4,000 per hectare, the current cost of urea is only P1,000 per bag.

GMA News Online sought the comment of DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista and DA spokesperson Rex Estoperez but they have yet to respond as of posting time.—LDF, GMA Integrated News