Watchdogs urged to monitor use of P61-B agri budget

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    ANGELES CITY – Noting reports that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is ranked one of the top five corrupt five government agencies under the Arroyo administration, the country’s biggest fisherfolk federation yesterday urged all  anti-corruption watchdogs to “closely monitor” the disbursement of P61- billion budget of the department next year.

    “High level vigilance and round-the-clock checking is necessary to make sure taxpayers money allocated for agriculture will surely go to agricultural purposes and not to the dubious farm-to -pocket roads and other triple platinum crimes of corruption during the  Arroyo administration,” said  fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

    However, Pamalakaya also expressed distrust of the Aquino administration as they branded both Pres. Aquino and Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala whom it viewed as being both “traditional politicians.”

    “Traditional politicians are highly prone to first- rate corruption and Class A raid of public funds, and anti-corruption watchdogs can prevent future crimes by rising above the occasion,” Pamalakaya said in the statement.

    It noted that “the DA is in the top five of most corrupt agencies under GMA (Pres. Arroyo), and the same may happen again if Secretary Alcala and Malacañang are allowed to spend public funds without periodic audit, financial inventory and assessment”, said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France.

    France said that “aside from anti-corruption groups and Commission on Audit (COA), the oversight committees of Philippine Senate and House of Representatives can do their share in assuring the public the taxpayers’ money is spent for projects that would uplift the poor situation of farmers, fisherfolk and petty agriculture producers in the countryside.”

    France said during the Arroyo administration, the DA and its attached agencies “were involved in many cases of corruption.”

     “Aside from the P 728 million fertilizer fund scam, the department figured in the P 5 billion swine scam, the P434 million loans to fly by night non-government organizations and the P 455-million ice making machines,” France noted.

    He stressed that “all these took place during the nine-years of the Arroyo administration.”

    France also noted that on Christmas day, Alcala said the government would be spending the bulk of its P61 -billion budget for 2012 in long- term public infrastructure projects like irrigation.

    He also said the DA has admitted in its 2011 yearend report that product-oriented short- term programs like the P 728 million fertilizer project had led to corruption of agriculture funds under the Arroyo administration.

    “Next year, the DA plans to irrigate 87,405 hectares of agricultural lands and rehabilitate irrigation systems that service around 79,246 hectares. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA), an attached DA agency, also wants to restore 57,199 hectares of irrigated land,” France said.

    France also quoted the NIA as vowing “to focus on cheaper and small- gestating irrigation projects to reduce the waiting time for farmers.”

    He said anti-corruption watchdogs should also be aware of plans of the DA to construct around 4,584 small-scale irrigation projects that would include shallow tube wells, small water reservoirs, small water impounding projects and spring developments.

    Also worth monitoring is the distribution of about 4,526 units of post harvest equipment and machinery such as dryers, storage and milling equipment, and dairy equipment and machinery next year, France added.

    He also urged the watchdogs to keep track of the implementation of the construction of. 2,777 post-harvest facilities for drying, storage, processing and transport, and construct trading centers in Benguet, Pangasinan, Camarines Sur and Cebu.

    In 2012, the DA is also expected to construct or upgrade  1, 284 kilometers of farm to market roads, he said.

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