The Manila Times
expensive, the fertilizer savings is increased.” The memo clearly states that the estimate is illustrative. But why was the price of P2,000 per bag of urea used? The answer is that it was the prevailing average price at that time (April 24-28) as reported by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). But the point is that since the figures are for illustrative purposes only, they cannot be used as the final reference prices. The last sentence also indicates a preference for cheaper biofertilizer. Subsection IV, on the procurement of biofertilizers, also instructed: “Procurement of selected biofertilizers will be done through competitive bidding following the provisions of RA (Republic Act) 9184. Biofertilizers to be procured must be registered under the FPA or Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS). Selection of specific biofertilizers will be based on the process conducted ... considering efficacy/ effectivity, price, savings from the reduction of inorganic fertilizer, local production and availability of technical staff from the supplier to extend assistance in areas where the product is still new.” Clearly, MO 32 installed all the necessary safeguards to ensure above-board transactions on the procurement of biofertilizers. One, it will have to go through a public bidding process as provided by the law. Two, the biofertilizers must be registered at the FPA or the BAFS. Three, the DA regional offices should ensure cost savings in the procurement of the biofertilizers and also effectivity in increasing yield. And four, the supplier must be capable of providing extension support services. Another misplaced accusation, meanwhile, is the claim of Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, head of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, that former Agriculture secretary William Dar has “a lot of explaining to do” regarding an onion price upsurge. He said that the “Sibuyas Queen,” Leah Cruz, was operating the onion cartel long before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took the reins of the Agriculture department, and thus his predecessor, Dar, must therefore be held accountable. I believe Enverga will benefit from a little research work by his staff. For one, Leah Cruz was already pinpointed as the “Sibuyas Queen,” among others, by a study conducted by the Department of Justice in 2014. Her business flourished during the incumbency of Proceso Alcala as Agriculture secretary. Two, the price of onion was hovering around P60 to P80 per kilo during the first six months of 2022 when Dar was still secretary. By July 2022, when Dar was no longer Agriculture chief, it started to climb to P90 then to P140 in August, P200 in October and skyrocketed to between P500 and P700 in December, before settling to around P350 to P500 in January 2023. All these figures were cited by Sen. Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, in her opening remarks to start a January 16 hearing in the Senate on onion prices. Finally, if Enverga really wants to dig deep into the matter, he should investigate the operations of the Bureau of Plant Industry, which issues the sanitary and phytosanitary certificates on imported food items, and also the Bureau of Customs, which monitors entry of all imported agricultural products. Unfortunately, the Agriculture secretary has little power over these agencies as they exercise a lot of autonomy given their connections to the powers-that-be.