Rep Cojuangco to DA: Allot more funds for Pangasinan farmers
By Danny O Sagun
Dagupan City (14 January) -- A Pangasinan congressman has asked the Department of Agriculture to allot Pangasinan a sizable chunk of the P12 billion farm rehabilitation fund for typhoon-affected areas last year.
Fifth district Congressman Marcos Cojuangco in a press conference Wednesday at Chowking restaurant in barangay Carmen, Rosales town stressed that the province should have a bigger share of the emergency fund since it suffered much from the massive floods brought by typhoon Pepeng in October last year.
He said that agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap might not have been properly apprised of the extent of damages here particularly on agriculture because of the trimming down of affected areas from the initial report of some 26,000 hectares of completely damaged areas to just more than 10,000 hectares. He also said that more than five months have already passed and the department has yet to deliver its assistance to farmers in the form of fertilizer and seeds.
Abono partylist chairman Rosendo So in the same forum also expressed disgust why neighboring Tarlac province appeared to have suffered more than Pangasinan and thus stands to receive more assistance from the department.
"Dahil ba ang NDCC (national disaster coordinating council) chairman ay galing Tarlac?" Cojuangco joked in reaction to So’s revelation, referring to former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, his cousin.
Reiterating his appeal to the government to forego rice importation in order to benefit local farmers, So said that government would only spend some P131 million in assisting farmers from the affected 26,000 hectares of farmlands compared to P2 billion which government would spend for rice importation.
The DA is giving assistance amounting to P5,050 per hectare for the completely damaged ricelands – three bags of complete fertilizer and two bags of urea plus seeds. Only seeds will be given to those farmers in partially affected areas.
But because of the delays in bidding, the department opted to assist the farmers by reimbursing their fertilizer purchase, according to DA Regional Director Cipriano Santiago who also graced the media forum.
Yap, in his December 9, 2009 memorandum to the regional directors of typhoon-affected areas, said that the "fertilizer assistance program is good only for master-listed typhoon-affected farmers who have planted from October 1, 2009 to March 15, 2010." He clarified that reimbursement of the farmers’ purchases would be until May 15, 2010.
The fund came from P1.8 billion allotted by the department for such purpose which is outside of the P12 billion emergency fund, said Rodolfo Guieb who heads the field operations division and represented Yap in the forum. The department also asked the budget department to allocate P4.9 billion more.
"Don’t spend that for Metro Manila alone, allocate that to our farmers here who suffered much from the floods. Wala na silang capital, wala na silang ikakabuhay," Cojuangco asked Yap. "Please convey that to the secretary," he also asked Guieb as he questioned the reimbursement scheme since farmers, he pointed out, do not have money anymore. "Ang mangyayari nyan uutang sila sa supplier," he said.
So expressed fears there might be even ghost deliveries.
The partylist chair revealed that the farmers had already drafted a letter to President Macapagal-Arroyo to complain of their plight. He said the President may not know the real score regarding the farmers’ assistance program of the DA.
Cojuangco said he may also sign the letter or write his own letter to the Chief Executive to inform her of the actual situation facing the farmers. He noted that Local government units in Metro Manila have billions of pesos in their disposal unlike small LGUs here in the province which suffered much from the calamity and therefore could not readily raise funds for the affected people especially the farmers. (PIA Pangasinan) [top]