THE Makabayan bloc in Congress filed House Resolution 992 urging the Committee on Agriculture and Food to investigate the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) fertilizer procurement, amid allegations that its purchase price was inflated.

On April 28, the DA posted an invitation to bid for the supply and delivery of 5.69 million bags of urea fertilizer with an approved budget of P5.69 billion. The agency also invited bids to supply 1.8 million bags of urea fertilizers for P1.8 billion or P1,000 per bag.

“The total contract for the P1.8 billion fertilizer could be overpriced by at least P271.66 million as farmers from Tarlac and Nueva Ecija attest that the prevailing average price of urea is pegged only at P850 per bag,” according to the resolution.

Through its Bids and Awards Committee, the DA had issued Notices to Award and Contract to the two winning companies, La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp. and Atlas Fertilizer Corp.

La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp. delivered 97,615 bags at P990 per bag to Region 4-A; 694,904 bags at P995 per bag to Region 6; and 911,073 bags at P995 per bag to Region 3.

Meanwhile, Atlas Fertilizer Corp. delivered 107,498 bags at P900 per bag to Region 7.

“This issue on the alleged overpriced fertilizer further raised suspicion because news reports stated that La Filipina does not also have available stock of urea fertilizers nor has it shown any bill of lading to prove that it had an incoming supply of urea fertilizer and yet it still bagged the contract,” according to the resolution.

The Makabayan bloc added that the DA should put on hold or suspend the succeeding bids for the procurement of an additional P3.8 billion worth of fertilizer “until the questionable bidding and procurement of the P1.8 billion fertilizer is given clarity.”

In a virtual briefing on June 16, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said that the DA followed government procurement rules in its acquisition of fertilizers.

He said that P1,000 for a 50-kilogram fertilizer bag is lower than the average retail price of urea fertilizer, based on a survey conducted by the DA’s Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority between March and May.

Meanwhile, in a virtual briefing Tuesday, Undersecretary for Operations and Agri-Fisheries Mechanization Ariel T. Cayanan said that the department is open to an investigation by Congress.

Maliwanag po at consistent ang pahayag ng kalihim. Ito pong dinadaanan nating prosesong ‘to at kung po tayo ay iimbestigahan ay maluwag pong sinasabi ng kalihim na ine-entertain po niya (The Secretary’s pronouncements are clear and consistent. He welcomes an investigation into the process)” he said.

The DA procured fertilizer for rice farmers under the Rice Resiliency Program which aims to increase the country’s rice self-sufficiency to 93% from 87% by the end of 2020. — Genshen L. Espedido