Legislators belonging to the Makabayan Bloc on Thursday pushed for a congressional investigation of the alleged irregularities in the Department of Agriculture’s grant of a P1.8 billion fertilizer supply contract to a supplier that bid higher than the prevailing retail price of the farm input.
To make matters worse, the legislators said the DA’s chosen supplier not only asked for a higher price but also did not have locally available stocks of the urea fertilizer that the agency needs.
In a resolution, Party-list Reps. Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, France Castro of ACT Teachers and Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan sought a probe into the P1.8 billion fertilizer contract for the DA’s Rice Resiliency Program that is aimed to increase rice production from 87 to 93 percent by yearend.
House Resolution 992 filed by the bloc directs the House of Representatives’ Committees on Agriculture and Food and on Good Government and Public Accountability to look into the alleged irrgularity.
“The issue on the alleged overpriced fertilizer further raised suspicion because news reports stated that the winning bidder La Filipina, does not also have available stocks of urea fertilizers nor has it shown any bill of lading to prove that it had an incoming supply of urea fertilizers and yet it still bagged the contract,” the resolution said.
The legislators said the department “must have the sense to put on hold or suspend or both the succeeding bidding for the procurement of an additional P3.8 billion worth of fertilizer until the questionable bidding and procurement of the P1.8 billion fertilizer had been clarified.
Members of the Makabayan Bloc noted that on April 28, the DA posted an invitation to bid for the supply and delivery of 5.69 million bags of urea fertilizer with an approved budget of P5.69 billion. DA also conducted bidding for the 1,811,090 bags of urea fertilizers for P1.8 billion or P1,000 per bag.
The resolution noted that the winning bidders for the alleged P1.8 billion overpriced fertilizer supply contract were La Filipina Uy Gongco Corporation for the delivery of 97,615 bags at P990 per bag to Region 4A; 694,904 bags at P995 per bag to Region 6, and 911,073 bags at P995 per bag to Region 3, on May 8, 2020, and May 14, 2020, respectively; and Atlas Fertilizer for the delivery of 107,498 bags at P900 per bag to Region 7 on May 14, 2020.
The DA is set to procure another P3.8-billion worth of fertilizer.
The lawmakers said the total contract for the P1.8 billion fertilizer could be overpriced by at least P271.66 million as farmers from Tarlac and Nueva Ecija attest that the prevailing average price of urea fertilizer is only P850 per bag.”
“DA and Secretary William Dar initially denied the so-called overpriced fertilizer scam, saying that the agency will disclose all information regarding the bidding and procurement of the fertilizer supply,” the Makabayan Bloc said in the resolution.
“DA said it based the bidding price on the price monitoring of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority for the period of April 27 to May 1 and that transport and other cost were incorporated in the final cost amounting to P1000 per bag of urea fertilizer,” the group added.
The resolution also noted that farmers said recent purchases of urea fertilizer showed a bag could fetch for P380 in Tarlac, P810 in Pangasinan, and P840 in Nueva Ecija. Based on the recent monitoring of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Plipinas, average prevailing prices per bag of urea fertilizer since last month have not changed where in Tarlac, P850; Nueva Ecija, P830 to P870; Isabela, P880 to P1,100; Iloilo, P880; Camarines Sur, P1,000; Iloilo, P880, South Cotabato, P850; Agusan del Sur, P950; Davao City P800 and Davao de Oro, P1,000.