Hontiveros seeks probe of DA memo on biofertilizer to prevent another fund mess
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the Senate to investigate a memorandum issued by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on the use of biofertilizer “to prevent another fertilizer fund scam.”
She filed Senate Resolution No. 608 on Thursday, directing the blue ribbon panel to probe the DA’s issuance of Memorandum Order No. 32 – which sets guidelines for the use and distribution of biofertilizer.
“There is a need to investigate the basis for the issuance of Memorandum Order No. 32 on whether the price of fertilizer and cost of urea per bag are indeed high to warrant the insistence of the DA to use biofertilizer,” it read.
In a separate statement, Hontiveros said farmer organizations are concerned by the proposal to buy biofertilizers “since it may end up being another fertilizer fund scam.”
“We must look at this situation. It is their livelihood that would be affected by this, and we should listen to what they have to say,” Hontiveros said.
In 2004, former DA Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante was tagged as orchestrator in the fertilizer fund controversy concerning the alleged diversion of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the re-election bid of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Hontiveros’ resolution took note that, according to the DA memorandum order, two bags of inorganic fertilizer urea per hectare costs P4,000, while “selected biofertilizer can substitute for at least two bags of bureau without sacrificing the yield.”
But it also cited agricultural group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, who said there was no basis to the issuance of the order since, contrary to its claim, the cost of urea is only P1,100 per bag.
“There is a need to conduct a study on whether the use of biofertilizer instead of fertilizer will improve the productivity of farmers in rice production and whether its use is indeed more cost-efficient for farmers,” the resolution said.
It also pointed out that the funds for the biofertilizer will be sourced from the fertilizer support program of the National Rice Program.
“At a time of high prices and looming El Niño, it is imperative to review the policies of the DA on rice production,” the resolution noted.