Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has scored the past administration of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for failure to award the more than P100-million farm machinery and equipment that were left rusting at its compound in Tupi, South Cotobato.
“While many farmers of Central Mindanao have to be content with using the slow- moving carabao to plow their rice fields, modern agriculture equipment worth over P100 million were left under the elements in the 35-hectare compound of the Department of Agriculture,” Piñol said in a statement.
He noted that some equipment was bought about four years ago while the more expensive ones, including multi-million peso rice and corn harvesters and tractors, are about a year old.
“What I saw gave me a mixed feeling of anger and pity,” Piñol said after a visit to the compound on Monday.
He was informed by Officer-in-Charge Regional Director Carlene Collado, manning the post until the appointment papers of Milagros Casis are signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, that the machinery and equipment were not distributed because the farmers could not come up with a 15 percent cash equity required as their counterpart.
The machinery and farm equipment were part of the DA’s farm mechanization program, which was implemented through counter-parting scheme where the DA shoulders 85 percent of the cost, while the qualified recipients pay the 15 percent.
Collado said the cash equity was supposed to go to the dealer of the equipment to complete the payment.
“Honestly, I do not understand why farmers would have to be asked to make the complete payment for machinery procured by the government. The government does not procure on installment or partial payment process,” Piñol said.
Former DA-Region XII director Amalia Datukan was sacked after Piñol assumed office this month.
To help farmers pay the cost of the machines, Piñol scrapped the 15:85 counter-parting scheme and proposed the 50:50 sharing of bill, of which the 50 percent of the beneficiaries’ share will be paid in four years.
Meanwhile, the DA chief directed retired Philippine Marines Col. Danny Luna of the Internal Audit Service to come up with a report on this misuse of government funds and assets.
“In the meantime, I have directed that the equipment be immediately rehabilitated, repaired and repainted and distributed to the farmers or the local government units,” Pinol said.
He will also ask lawyers of the department to determine the administrative and criminal liability of the officials behind the procurement and non-distribution of the farm equipment.
By keeping the equipment and machinery in the compound unused for a long period, Piñol said, the government was defrauded of valuable amount, making it “altogether wrong and immoral.”