MANILA — Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday denied allegations that his department squandered more than Php 14.4 billion in 2013 in questionable projects and stressed that ever since taking over the helm of the DA, the agency has always ensured the prudent use of public funds entrusted to it to benefit farmers and fishers and the Filipino people.
Citing a report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the Philippine Daily Inquirer alleged Wednesday that “the DA wasted huge sums on several anomalous programs using the regular funds it received from the national government and allotments from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).”
The Agriculture chief said that for the record, the DAP funds in question were not all within the disposition of the Department.
“Some P2 billion were allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as implementer of farm-to-market road projects. Meanwhile, a substantial amount of P1 billion was used to finance the Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP) managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Mindanao Rural Development Project (MRDP),” Alcala clarified.
“Likewise, some P919 million was used as counterpart in MRDP projects intended to spur development in Mindanao,” he said.
It should be noted that MRDP was recognized by the World Bank as a model of transparency and effective project implementation and has paved the way for up-scaled version dubbed Philippine Rural Development Project.
The PRDP will make available USD 670 million or Php 27.50 billion to cover and finance as many project proposals from the Local Government Units and farmers’ and fishers’ groups nationwide.
“As for the alleged PDAF projects, let me state that the Department stopped releasing PDAF as early as 2013 or even before the Supreme Court announced its unconstitutionality,” Alcala said.
He also stressed that the outstanding Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loans worth Php 4.3 billion mentioned in the COA report were approved and disbursed during the previous administration covering the years 2000-2010.
“The incumbent ACEF Executive Board suspended further disbursement of funds in 2010 due to poor collection performance, which COA also noted. We have formulated remedial measures to improve collection and pursued in earnest continuing collection efforts towards this end,” he said.
“None of these funds were squandered by the Department. Liquidation and completion of documentation is a work in progress,” he said.
Alcala noted further that the COA report itself mentioned the difficulties encountered in the project implementation which included unstable peace and order condition in the project site, problems on right of way, obstruction within the construction limits, and other related problems which are being addressed on a case to case basis.
He said that he had already directed the heads of Bureaus and Regional Field Offices to submit their respective responses to the COA report which, he assured, will be made public.
“This fresh attack on the name and integrity of the Department is undermining the gains of the partnership between the agency and the farmers and fishers who said that it is only during the Aquino Administration that they feel the genuine support of the national government,” the Agriculture chief said.
“We assure the public that we are abiding by our mandate and continue to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability in governance,” Alcala said.