Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has ordered the immediate distribution of about P2-billion worth of farm machinery and equipment, which were “hoarded or left under the elements” in government-owned compounds and warehouses across the country.
Piñol directed all regional directors during a meeting on Friday at the Department of Agriculture (DA) offices in Quezon City to release the farm instruments to beneficiaries within two months.
“The regional directors confirmed to me yesterday [Thursday] that they were at a loss on how to handle the equipment distribution because of the guidelines,” he said.
The DA chief was informed by the directors that the problem with the machinery and equipment resulted from an old guideline requiring the beneficiaries to put up a 15 percent cash equity, which the farmers cannot afford.
Piñol said he had sought legal opinion on whether the payment of the 15 percent equity to the equipment suppliers was legal.
“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. I ordered the directors to start the distribution today,” he added.
Piñol said the farmer beneficiaries will be asked to sign a deed of undertaking, which says that if indeed the 15 percent equity is legal, the supplier will be paid by installment over four years.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture secretary warned DA officials and personnel of more investigations in the coming days.
“But if you believe that is the end of this saga, you are dead wrong. My next investigation will be focused on several multimillion-peso rice processing equipment, which are now standing in many areas all over the country and which have not operated yet,” he said.
James Konstantin Galvez