Ex anti-poverty exec blames corruption in DA for food crisis

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — A former head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said corruption in the Department of Agriculture is one of the reasons why the country is experiencing a food crisis.

Teresita Quintos-Deles, former lead convenor of NAPC, said unearthing more cases of fund misuse or misallocation in the DA would establish if public funds indeed went to agricultural programs and projects geared toward food security.

She cited the diversion of funds intended as fertilizer assistance to farmers that implicated former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, who is now in the United States.

The funds were allegedly used to support the presidential campaign of President Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Deles, who resigned from the Cabinet in 2005 following allegations of election cheating against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was guest speaker during the commencement exercise of the University of the Cordilleras on Saturday.

“I think [the fertilizer scam] is [a reason for] the food crisis that we are experiencing right now because [DA officials] diverted the irrigation and other agricultural support from true agricultural areas [and used these for] political purposes,” Deles told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

“The fact is that there was very important money that was supposed to go to agriculture but it was not used,” she said.

“Why did they hide Jocjoc? Because it was obvious that there was misuse of funds and for all we know, there are other cases of misuse,” she said.

Deles said cases of corruption should be exposed and resolved.

She said government’s failure to recognize the signs — higher demand and low supply of rice — has worsened the crisis now being experienced by Filipinos.

Deles said even Arroyo’s existing policies on agriculture are not being implemented well to address the crisis.

Deles said one of the programs that the government failed to implement is the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA), a landmark legislation which aims to develop and modernize agriculture and fisheries in the country.

“[Arroyo] is in office for eight years now [and] the agricultural policies existing are hers…AFMA was going to be implemented but it did not happen, the irrigation support was not given attention,” she said.

“A government in office [for] eight years should have done the overall planning by looking at the global landscape of rice and grains and should have been able to foresee the situation. These are the situations that do not happen overnight,” she said.

Deles said: “According to a former agriculture secretary, the signs were there already in 2001, [that] the demand and supply would get higher. The government could have started the stock building.”


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