Press Release
May 11, 2023


Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday filed a resolution to investigate the recent memorandum of the Department of Agriculture mandating the use of biofertilizers.

In Proposed Senate Resolution No. 608, Hontiveros called for an investigation into Memorandum Order No. 32 to prevent a repeat of the 2004 Fertilizer Fund Scam, in which the DA's fertilizer funds were allegedly diverted and used for re-election.

"At a time of high prices and looming El Niño, it is imperative to review the policies of the Department of Agriculture on rice production. Mapapagaan ba ang bigat na pasan ng ating mga magsasaka o baka naman mauwi lang sa korapsyon na lalong magpapahirap sa kanila,?" Hontiveros asked.

The MO No. 32 was issued on April 27 and establishes guidelines for the distribution and use of biofertilizers to increase rice production.

The DA stated in its memorandum order that its biofertilizer "can substitute for at least two bags of urea without sacrificing the yield" compared to two bags of inorganic fertilizer per hectare, which costs 4,000.

However, Hontiveros noted that MO No. 32's figure of P4,000 per hectare is incorrect because urea costs just 1,100 per bag and two bags per hectare would cost only 2,200.

"There is a need to investigate the basis for the issuance of MO No. 32, whether the price of fertilizer and the cost of urea per bag are indeed high enough to warrant the insistence of the Department of Agriculture on using biofertilizer," the resolution stated.

The resolution then called for a study to determine if biofertilizer is indeed more cost-effective and increases rice farmers' yield.

"The idea of buying biofertilizers is drawing concern from farmer organizations since it may end up being another fertilizer fund scam. We must look at this situation. Kabuhayan nila ang pinakamaaapektuhan dito and we should listen to what they have to say," Hontiveros said.

Even while the DA assured critics that a bidding process would lower the price, commercial biofertilizers are still new, Hontiveros said. The procurement agency and its auditors may not know how to specify biofertilizer quality and price. She added, "There won't be many suppliers, so there is a chance that the bidding will be competitive on paper but not in reality."

"I trust in the integrity of DA Undersecretary Sebastian, and this resolution should be viewed in the spirit of enhancing the procurement process at the DA so that regional DA offices and their auditors receive better guidance," she concluded.

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