Agriculture execs scolded by Senators for failure to spend to help farmers

·Contributor
·2 min read
A farmer removes weeds growing alongside with ride stalks at a ricefield in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in Philippines, August 27, 2018. Department of Agriculture (DA) officials earned the ire of senators after allegedly failing to use the funds allocated to them by the government, which resulted in inadequate support to farmers. (Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
A farmer removes weeds growing alongside with ride stalks at a ricefield in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in Philippines, August 27, 2018. Department of Agriculture (DA) officials earned the ire of senators after allegedly failing to use the funds allocated to them by the government, which resulted in inadequate support to farmers. (Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Officials from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) earned the ire of two senators during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture on Thursday (September 1) for supposedly not being able to spend the funds allocated to them, thus failing to provide farms with adequate help and support in improving their farming equipment.

Senators Cynthia Villar and Imee Marcos said PhilMech deprived farmers of the money they needed for support, preventing the locally-produced rice from competing against the imported rice in the market.

“How do you expect me to give you funds this year when you do not spend what was allotted for you?” Villar, who is also the chair of the agriculture committee, said.

They tackled several resolutions probing into the different agencies’ failure to implement programs supposedly designed to help farmers, including the measly P5,000 subsidy from the government, support for farming equipment, organic fertilizers from composting facilities, and better rice seeds.

For instance, Resolution No. 158 wants a probe into PhilMech’s alleged failure to implement the mechanization program of the government under Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), another resolution on the Bureau of Soils and Water Management’s slow distribution of composting facilities for biodegradable waste units, and the delay in the distribution of the coco levy fund.

Commit kayo nang commit pero nangangamote [kayo] sa implementation, pero ayaw niyo namang mag-commit na magre-resign kayo kung di niyo nagawa,” Villar said, pointing out PhilMerch’s underspending from January to June of this year.

(You keep on committing and committing but you are lagging behind in implementation; and yet, nobody from you wants to resign to take accountability if you fail to do your jobs.)

They also blamed former Secretary William Dar’s Department of Agriculture for creating another bureaucracy of advisory council that will supposedly craft policies and guidelines for the said mechanization program under RTL.

“You better stop this or I will file charges against you,” the senator warned.

“The problem with this government is that too many people are meddling into other people’s functions. You have no mercy for the farmers!” Villar added.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marcos said that due to PhilMerch’s inefficiency, farmers were made to wait for the supposed benefits of the RTL.

“Our farmers are being made to suffer by the DA with no aid coming from the government, and it seems that the DA is doing these on purpose,” Marcos said.

“You are the problem,” Villar said when the PhilMerch director, Dionisio Alvindia, responded that he inherited a lot of problems upon assuming office in the agency.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates. The views expressed are his own.

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