‘Waste of funds by heartless gov’t’
KORONADAL CITY—Waste of money by a heartless government.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol uttered these words, referring to the Aquino administration, after discovering that millions of pesos worth of submersible pumps, that could have eased the effects of El Niño, and other farm machines had been kept unused.
Piñol found the machines just strewn around in a 35-hectare compound of the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office in the town of Tupi, South Cotabato province.
Among these are a still undetermined number of submersible pumps which had been recommended as tools to ease the effects of El Niño in the region, where at least 80,000 hectares of farms were devastated by the dry spell.
Piñol said while hundreds of farmers in Central Mindanao are stuck with old, inefficient farming tools, modern equipment worth more than P100 million had been left unused in the compound.
On his way to General Santos City from here on Monday, Piñol dropped by the DA compound in Tupi unannounced and was surprised to see the pieces of equipment just lying there.
He said the machines, which also included harvesters and tractors, had been bought using government money only to be left unused.
“Why is this happening?” said Piñol. “Why were these not distributed to farmers? I would like to find out why,” he said in a phone interview.
Piñol was one of the guest speakers of South Cotabato’s 50th foundation anniversary on Monday.
“What I saw gave me a mixed feeling of anger and pity,” Piñol said in a statement. “I felt my knees weaken as I toured the huge compound,” he said.
He said he asked regional DA officials why the machines had not been given to farmers.
Piñol failed to get an answer. Amalia Jayag Datukan, who was relieved as DA regional chief effective on July 1, was not around. Her replacement, Milagros Casis, has yet to be formally appointed.
Carlene Collado, acting DA regional chief, said the machines were not given to farmers because the beneficiaries could not produce counterpart funds equivalent to 15 percent of the machines’ value.
Collado said Proceso Alcala, Pinol’s predecessor, had required farmers to shoulder 15 percent of the machines’ cost.
“Honestly, I do not understand why farmers would have to be asked to complete the payment for machinery procured by the government,” Piñol said, adding that he knew government purchases to be fully paid.
Piñol directed Danny Luna, new DA internal audit service head and a former Marine colonel, to investigate and submit a report on the misuse of DA funds and assets.
Piñol also ordered the immediate repair of the machines for distribution to farmers by local government units.
Datukan, in her Facebook posts, said the machines that Piñol saw in the compound were small units and old. She said they were due for distribution when she was relieved.
She said the machines should have been distributed in February this year but were not claimed by recipients and kept at the DA compound in Tupi. Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao
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