Press Release
November 4, 2008


Sen. Chiz Escudero today said nothing prevents the Senate from issuing a new warrant for Jocjoc Bolante even if the petition is granted based on the new hearing the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will hold next week.

This after Bolante filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Court of Appeals from the Senate custody. Escudero said seeking relief from the CA is Bolante's right and the Senate should respect whatever the court decides on.

However, the senator said Bolante cannot be covered by an executive privilege as what Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said. "Bolante is not covered by the executive privilege. He will not be asked about his conversation with the president but his own actions or inactions about the fertilizer fund controversy".

The latest medical bulletin on Bolante saying he has no serious health problem justifies the issuance of warrant instead of invite or subpoena first because he is clearly being dishonest and shows desire to evade senate jurisdiction, Escudero continued.

As this developed, Escudero asked the government to also look into the "other fertilizer scam" - the continuing high prices of fertilizer despite the steep drop in oil prices.

He said DA Secretary Arthur Yap should make good of his words that prices of fertilizers should drop this month.

"Fertilizer prices should be tailgating the fall of oil prices but we don't see it happening".

Currently, fertilizer prices "remain in the stratosphere," with the average price of a 50-kilo bag of Urea hitting P2,215 in ARMM and a bag of 'complete' fertilizer averaging P2,045 in Caraga two weeks ago .

Average national price of Urea was P1,906 per 50-kg bag , according to monitoring done during the same period by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, while that of a " complete" or 14-14-14 fertilizer was P1,951 per 50-kg bag .

Two other widely-used fertilizers in the country , ammonium sulfate and ammonium phosphate , were selling for P1,071 per bag and P1,875 per bag respectively, the same report said.

Oil prices have dropped by more than 50 percent, even dipping last week to $61.62 for a barrel of Dubai oil, after cresting $142.27 per barrel in July 11, 2008.

The price of natural gas, which is used to produce ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in fertilizers, is down to $6.80 per 1,000 cubic feet from $10 in July.

"When oil prices rose, fertilizer prices jumped in unison but now that oil prices are going down, fertilizer prices are not following." He said the government should exercise all the powers within its means to lower the prices of this very important farming input.

Fertilizers account for 30 to 40 percent of total cost of production of agricultural crops.

He said a 50 percent reduction in the price of Urea will save a rice farmer tilling two hectares P24, 000 a year, or P6, 000 per hectare per cropping season.

"The 100 percent rise in the price of fertilizers will not only burden farmers but the pain will be passed on to consumers too", Escudero said

Escudero said while this fertilizer scam has not generated the same intense outrage as the one pulled off by JocJoc Bolante had created , "it is , however , more pernicious in the sense that it directly victimizes all farmers."

"In terms of money involved,this one dwarfs Bolante's mischief. The farmers' are hurting, "he said.

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