Agri group: DA’s order on use of biofertilizer may result in scam

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 7) — Agricultural group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) on Sunday warned that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) memorandum order on the use of biofertilizers may result in another fertilizer scam.

Released on April 27, the DA's Memorandum Order No. 32 sets the guidelines on the distribution and use of biofertilizers this year to improve rice production.

In the memorandum order, the DA said the use of two bags of inorganic fertilizer urea per hectare costs ₱4,000 while its selected biofertilizer “can substitute for at least two bags of urea without sacrificing the yield.”

“Theoretically, a savings of more than ₱2,000 per hectare can be realized if the cost of biofertilizer is less than ₱2,000 per hectare,” the DA said.

“If the biofertilizer chosen by the DA-RFOs (regional field offices) is less expensive, the fertilizer savings is increased,” it added.

But in a statement, SINAG chairperson Rosendo So said “the basis for MO 32 is flawed from the onset as the cost of urea is now only ₱1,100 per bag. At two bags per hectare, the cost of urea is only ₱2,200 per hectare, contrary to the claim of MO 32 of ₱4,000 per hectare.”

“DA’s official bidding price of urea is in fact, only at ₱1,230 per bag; at two bags per hectare, it is only ₱2,460, again, way below the false information of ₱4,000 per hectare Thus, there is no real savings, as claimed by MO 32,” he added.

So also said SINAG is “disturbed by the arbitrary insistence of biofertilizers, premised on the false claim of high urea prices.”

He also noted that the use of biofertilizers in commercial scale is not yet proven to result in higher yield and cost efficiency, and no field trials and commercial tests would merit a "sudden promotion" of biofertilizers nationwide.

“We are worried that another scandal that could approximate the fertilizer scam of the previous years may resurface,” he added.

He suggested to use compost chicken waste as cheaper organic fertilizer, and told the DA that pushing for the use of biofertilizers would not lower production costs, especially amid the looming El Niño.

“For balance fertilization, NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) use by rice farmers is indispensable. For cheaper use of organic fertilizers, why not use compost chicken waste, which is only ₱170 per bag (50 kilos per bag)? If the objective is to lower production cost, pushing for biofertilizer is not the solution,” he explained.

“Why the haste in pushing these down the throats of our farmers? We should rather let the rice farmers decide on the most suitable fertilizer for their farms, be it inorganic or otherwise,” he added.

SINAG already wrote to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who also serves as agriculture secretary and Sen. Cynthia Villar, who heads the Senate committee on agriculture and food, to seek their “immediate intervention to revoke or recall MO 32.”

In February 2009, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee concluded that the Fertilizer Fund Scam involved massive corruption scheme through the procurement and distribution of fertilizers nationwide.

The panel said former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante and other former DA officials allegedly diverted ₱728 million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 presidential bid of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.