By SLOAN RAMOS
BAGUIO CITY — Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano questioned the missing funds that the Department of Agriculture must have used to address the effects of the El Nino crisis.
In a press release, Mariano said that “Alam ng halos lahat ng mga nasa Department of Agriculture (DA) na tatamaan ng El Niño ang bansa. Sa kasamaang-palad, hindi matagpuan kung nasaan ang pondo sa agrikultura at magsasaka para malabanan ang tagtuyot” (Almost everybody in the agriculture department is fully aware that El Niño will hit the country. Unfortunately, funds intended for farmers and agriculture to counter drought are nowhere to be found).
Citing the 2008 Commission on Elections (COA) reports, Mariano stated that the DA have been the “top performer” in wasting funds through wasteful implementation of projects and missing funds, which is the reason why the government cannot give adequate support to farmers affected by the drought. The DA has spent 7 billion pesos in the year 2008.
Among the observations that Mariano noted in the COA 2008 report where the P5.188 billion Farm to Market road project that was not properly implemented, the P1.303 billion Fertilizer Coupon Discounts that have not been finished, and the P203.790 million Tipid Abono fertilizer program, among others.
In addition, Mariano argued that the reports of the Commission on Audit in itself answers why the government cannot afford to help the farmers in their production amidst this El Nino crisis. He said that this was, in fact, a “man-made El Nino.”
Mariano also said that such kind of corruption in the agricultural sector is threatening food security in the country, and that this fact refutes the claim of the Arroyo administration in providing food in each plate as a way to address the worsening hunger experienced by Filipinos. He concluded that farmers must be watchful in the actions of the DA to prevent another “fertilizer scam” that may be triggered by the upcoming 2010 national elections.
Senator Loren Legarda also questioned the government on the funds for El Nino. Legarda who is chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said there is a need to release the El Niño funds so the irrigation systems, wells and small water impounding projects of local government units, farmers and cooperatives can help mitigate the effects of El Nino.
Reached for comments, the Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon ti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT-TAKO), a regional peasant alliance in the Cordillera, said that if the government is serious in addressing the effects of the El Nino crisis, they must be able to channel funds directly to farmers, and not through unscrupulous projects that only waste government funds.
According to Vergie Dammay, the current chairperson of APIT-TAKO, it is only through “directly channeling funds to farmers” that they can be able to mitigate the effects of El Nino on their livelihood, and prevent a food crisis in the region.
Citing the heavy losses in cash crops and the death of livestock in the provinces in the Cordilleras, she added that the government must pay special attention in repairing and developing irrigation systems, as well as the rehabilitation of existing watershed areas where water can be sourced out. This, said Dammay, will aid farmers in preventing further losses in their crops, given the fact that it is planting season in many areas in the region. #nordis.net