Alcala decries smear job vs him

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Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has denied committing any illegal act or exerting any influence to favor a certain individual in awarding billions of pesos’ worth of irrigation projects, saying recent news columns were part of a demolition job against him.

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It has been reported in the columns of Erwin Tulfo in The Manila Times and People’s Journal Tonight that Alcala favored a certain Phil Natividad, allegedy giving him numerous farm-to-market road (FMR) projects.

It was also reported that there have been favored contractors who were awarded contracts of “up to a billion pesos’ worth of irrigation projects” that were linked to the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund and the equally controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Alcala’s chief of staff Dennis Guerrero said the Agriculture chief sees a vicious campaign to malign him and the Department of Agriculture itself, noting that there is even deception as the FMR issue is being mixed up with irrigation projects.

“The Secretary does not personally know this Mr. Natividad and has no transaction/ relation with him,” Guerrero added.

“To set the record straight, no person named Phil Natividad and no company related to him has been given any FMR project for implementation,” he said.

Guerrero also denied allegation that there were favored contractors awarded with contracts of “up to a billion pesos worth of irrigation projects.”

He said the DA chief has sought to institute management reforms during his supervision over the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and cleaned up the procurement process and made such process more transparent.

Guerrero noted that only the Umayam River Irrigation Project in Loreto and La Paz towns in Agusan del Sur cost up to a billion pesos.

He said Package 1 of this was bid out during the watch of former NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel in which Kyro Builders won, while Package 2 was auctioned off during the administration of Claro Maranan and was also won by Kyro but the winning bid was declared non-responsive on the ground that equipment and key personnel that were supposed to work on Package 2 were the same equipment and personnel that were working on Package 1.

The post-disqualification of Kyro led to the filling of Civil Case No. R-QZN-14-03743-SC, entitled: “Philip M. Natividad v. Board of Directors, National Irrigation Administration.” The case has been withdrawn at the instance of Natividad.

“Be that as it may, the Secretary is ready to face any investigation,” Guerrero said.

The official is also appealing to the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM) to initiate an investigation of the matter to determine whether there is a cornering of contracts for irrigation projects.

NIA is now under the supervision of PAFSAM Secretary Francis Pangilinan.

“This is especially significant now that big-ticket irrigation projects like Umayam Package 2, the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project in Calinog, Iloilo, and the Casecnan Multipurpose River and Power Project in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Pampanga have been awarded,” Guerrero said.

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