P6-M wealth shameful, says lawmaker

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Farm workers are earning less while the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture continues to be rich, a House leader said on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez hit Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for accumulating P6 million worth of income for 2012 per the Commission on Audit’s Salaries and Allowances report broken down to P2.515 million in basic salary, P3.5 million in allowances, bonuses, incentives, benefits and discretionary funds.

In contrast with Alcala’s wealth, Suarez noted that farmers receive significantly much lower income than the other players in the market. Farmers, Suarez said, are only earning P1,500 per harvest which is down from P4,000 in past administrations.

“Farm workers are also given to meager incomes, commonly receiving only 50 percent of the legislated minimum wage rates. It is quite ironic that our farmers in Quezon province remain among the poorest of the poor even while Secretary Alcala of the Department of Agriculture is a native of Quezon,” Suarez pointed out.

“Our coconut farmers receive an annual salary that is less than P12,000. The glaring disparity between the affluence of Secretary Alcala on one end and the abject poverty of our coconut farmers on the other marks his disconnect with the people whose interests he is supposedly looking after,” Suarez added.

Moreover, Suarez argued that during Alcala’s term as a representative of Quezon from 2007 to 2010, P3.5 million worth of the latter’s Priority Development Assistance Fund went missing and was supposed to have been given to 65 farmers.

As it turns out, most of the farmers did not get the P50,000 due them because their signatures were faked.

“What is more intriguing is the fact that only during the interim of the campaign period for the recent elections did agricultural projects suddenly inundated the province of Quezon. We are happy for this windfall of agricultural projects, but we hope that we do not need to wait another three years until the 2016 campaign season for the next batch of agricultural projects to reach Quezon and the rest of the farming sector,” Suarez argued.

Llanesca T. Panti

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