THE Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) warned farmers against persons attempting to collect fees on equipment being distributed through the government’s farm mechanization program.

PhilMech Director Baldwin G. Jallorina said in a recent virtual briefing that he has received reports of persons asking for processing fees from farm cooperatives and associations (FCAs) to facilitate the delivery of farm machinery. 

Mr. Jallorina added that facilitation fees are also being sought from the suppliers of the machinery who have been awarded supply contracts.

“We at PhilMech would like to emphasize that we never authorize nor tolerate the collection of both the processing and facilitation fees,” Mr. Jallorina said.

“FCAs that are interested to become beneficiaries under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF)-Mechanization Program need not pay any fees to become recipients of free machinery under the program, and to avail of the training related to the program, both hands-on and online,” he added.

According to Mr. Jallorina, attempts to collect fees have been reported in Pampanga, Bulacan, and Pangasinan.

“We are still verifying the allegations. The reports we received came from the suppliers themselves and some potential beneficiaries of the program. We opted to be discreet but the issue became worse when the machinery suppliers themselves called us to verify the collection of fees,” Mr. Jallorina said.  

“We received reports as early as 2020. We are conducting an investigation and have asked the help of our staff in the field and respective local government units (LGUs),” he added.

As of Sept. 28, Mr. Jallorina said PhilMech has distributed 14,368 units of various farm machinery such as four-wheel tractors, hand tractors, and floating tillers.

RCEF has an annual allocation of P10 billion from 2019 to 2024 to help farmers become more competitive against imported rice following the passage of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.  

The machinery program is to receive 50% of the RCEF allocation. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave