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Agri group urges Senate to probe DA’s ‘overpriced’ fertilizer supply contract

/ 09:52 PM June 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — An umbrella organization of various agricultural groups on Monday called for a Senate investigation into what it said was the allegedly overpriced fertilizer supply contracts of the Department of Agriculture (DA) worth an estimated P1.8 billion.

In a statement, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) noted that DA has allocated P5.69 billion for the procurement of urea fertilizer at P1,000 per bag under its stimulus program—Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra Covid-19 (ALPAS sa COVID-19).

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The DA earlier said it had initially procured over 1.81 million bags of urea fertilizer at around P1,000 per bag. But Sinag claimed that DA’s bid was “way above” the prevailing price.

“A negotiated bidding should even be lower than retail price, mas mababa pa dapat ito sa Php 850/bag” Sinag chairman Rosendo So said.

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“Fertilizer bought by farmers themselves fetch for only Php830 to Php850/ bag. This shows that the purchase of these urea fertilizer by the DA Central Office was utterly disadvantageous to the government and to our farmers; especially now when we need all the funds available to survive this pandemic,” he added.

The farmers’ group pointed out that the DA was in a position “to negotiate for a cheaper price because they are dealing with importers that handle bulk orders.”

“We call on the Senate to take the cudgels for our farmers who have been betrayed by the very officials who are supposed to help them recover from the adverse effects of COVID-19,” So said.

“We ask our senators to immediately investigate this and take to task those who are behind this anomalous deal,” he added.

According to So, Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee, was among those who alerted the organization on the bidding for urea fertilizer.

“We must remember that funds secured for this bidding process came from an emergency fund to help our farmers cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not want a repeat of another full-blown Senate investigation but all data so far will lead to the conclusion of a new ‘fertilizer scam’ orchestrated amid the pandemic,” So said.

“The figures are embarrassingly high: May kumikita sa pandemya,” he added.

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So then called on the agriculture chief to rescind the contract, saying that the difference between the winning bids and the prevailing market price would have been enough to buy more than half a million more bags of urea fertilizer.

Dar: We welcome that

Sought for comment, Dar told INQUIRER.net in a text message that the department would “welcome” the Senate inquiry.

“We welcome that. We only want the best for our farmers to increase their productivity and incomes,” he said.

In a statement on June 11, the DA said it “strictly” followed the procurement modality of negotiated procurement in its purchase of the first batch of fertilizers.

The agriculture secretary had said that the initially procured bags of urea fertilizer were purchased at a price lower than the national average retail prices of P1,035.60 for April 27 to May 1; P1,037.53 for May 4 to 8; and P1,040.68 for May 11 to 15.

The DA said it has so far issued purchase orders to two winning fertilizer companies—La Filipina Uy Gongco Corporation and Atlas Fertilizer—for the purchase of the initial batch of fertilizers.

“Such prices were a lot cheaper compared to previous purchases at the regions, ranging from P1,300 to P1,500 per 50-kilo bag of urea fertilizer,” he said.

Dar also assured that the department had been “very transparent” with its fertilizer procurement, saying that it may be used to “stir false information against the government.”

“The DA will not wrongfully hold any information that should be known to the public. I encourage everyone to help us look even closer to ensure that every peso we allot is going to where it should be spent,” he said.

“I can personally vouch for the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the procurement process that the DA-BAC has exercised for these fertilizers,” Dar added.

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