Monday, December 26, 2011

Keep an eye on P6.1 billion agri funds, anti-corrupt orgs told

MANILA, December 26, 2011—Fisherfolk group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) appealed to the anti-corruption community to keep a tight watch over the P6.1 billion (US$141,040,462.43 based on the prevailing foreign exchange rate of P43.25:$1.00) agricultural funds to prevent history of repeating itself.
The appeal was made after the group said that they don’t trust this Government at all, since it has not issued any clear guidelines on how the agri funds are spent or distributed.
“We don’t trust President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. We don’t trust his agriculture secretary, Proceso Alcala. Traditional politicians like them are highly prone to first-rate corruption and Class A raid of public funds,” said Pamalakaya Vice Chair Salvador France.
However the plunder of public funds can be prevented if anti-corruption organizations will “rise up above the occasion”.
During the time of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Department of Agriculture (DA) ranked 5 on the list of the most corrupt government agencies with the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, P5-B swine scam, the P434 million loans to fly by night non-government organizations and the P455-million ice making machines.
“[T]he same may happen again if Secretary Alcala and Malacañang are allowed to spend public funds without periodic audit, financial inventory and assessment,” said the fisherfolk leader.
France said that aside from the Commission on Audit (COA), the committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives can do its share in safeguarding the DA funds by assuring that the money is spent on things or project it was intended for.
Earlier the Agriculture chief disclosed that the bulk of the money alloted for DA’s spending will be used in long-term projects such as irrigation. In the short-term, the DA will be spending a lot for farm inputs such as fertilizers. The agency also said that they plan 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, meanwhile, said that it would restore 57,199 hectares of irrigated land. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]


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