Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol clarified in a Facebook post on Monday that all equipment procured and released to farmers during his stint at the agency remain operational.
The statement came after President Rodrigo Duterte said in a television interview recently that he would ask Piñol to explain the reported defective farm equipment handed out to local farmers in Eastern Visayas.
The rice farmers complained of faulty equipment, which they said are now useless.
Duterte added that he has learned that the government was importing most of the farm equipment but remained unaware of the status of the machines, saying it seemed to be not in harmony with what the end-users need.
Piñol said he addressed the problem of inferior and defective agricultural equipment — including dryers — distributed by the department in the past when he took over as DA chief in 2016.
“I was very clear in conveying my instructions to the regional offices that the DA must only procure quality farm implements,” he added.
He said he even stopped the procurement of cheap plastic sprayers, spades and other devices that broke after a single-use.
“The DA also implemented the Makinadong Magsasaka Program which trained farmers on how to operate and maintain the equipment given to them by the DA,” he said.
However, he admitted, that some equipment may not have been properly maintained by the farmers, making it no longer operational after a few years.
“Let me assure the public that there was no indiscriminate procurement of equipment and that it was based on what the farmers wanted,” Piñol said.
Piñol clarified that the procurement of agricultural equipment is done at the Regional Offices of DA based on approved budget proposals included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.
He said the procurement for 2016 was part of the budget of the previous administration.
In the case of the reported faulty equipment in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, Piñol said validation by the Presidential Management Staff last week found that only one equipment was not operational.
“This was an India-made rice and corn harvester released by the DA in 2012,” he said.
He added that of the reported faulty equipment in Eastern Visayas, he will ask DA Secretary William Dar to furnish him with a copy of the report made by Regional Director Milo delos Reyes.
“Initial unofficial information I gathered, however, indicated that some of the reported faulty and unused equipment were purchased by local government units who (sic) received their share of the Yolanda Rehabilitation Funds released to them by the DA,” he said.
Piñol served for three years as agriculture chief before he was transferred to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) earlier this year. (PNA)