The farmers’ and fisherfolk’s best ally yet | Inquirer Business

The farmers’ and fisherfolk’s best ally yet

The Commission on Audit (COA) could be the farmers’ and fisherfolk’s best ally in fighting corruption at the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Last Dec. 21, the House of Representatives, voting 258-0-0, approved the Revised Government Auditing Act, which is seen to further strengthen the commission’s role. If passed, it will help in “identifying the exact accountability and transparency in government operations,” while providing immediate response “to the needs of government agencies as an enabling partner for the benefit of the Filipinos.”

On its website, the COA states its mission is “to ensure accountability for public resources, promote transparency, and help improve government operations in partnership with stakeholders, for the benefit of the Filipino people.” One of its key functions is “to recommend measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations.”


Per its findings in 2022, a summary report involving the DA stated that “of the 172 prior years’ audit recommendations, only 56 (or 33 percent) were implemented.”


Poor record

This is bothersome, especially since the COA has been giving the DA a poor grade in the last three years.

In a letter to both the Senate Agriculture and Blue Ribbon committees last Sept. 13, the Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) wrote: “In our earlier May 15, 2022 letter to the Senate, we expressed our fear that the DA would once again have unliquidated and unexplained expenses. Partly because there was no investigation, our fear materialized.”

They were, of course, referring to the unliquidated and unexplained expenses of P22 billion in 2020 and P23 billion in 2021. The amounts were already a third of the yearly DA budget of about P70 billion.

The group then highlighted “this happened again in the amount of P24 billion for 2022.” This particular incident was also mentioned during the Dec. 5 confirmation hearing of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel at the Senate.

The AA further stated: “We request that [the] investigation proceed as soon as possible, lest this continuing hemorrhage in the DA budget … harms the farmers and fisherfolk who need it badly. It is especially important now, as the Senate considers another large increase in the agriculture budget that may be lost to continuing corruption and waste.”

Because of other priorities, the Senate has not conducted such investigation up to now.


Meanwhile, just last Dec. 28, it was announced that the DA’s budget for next year would increase by P2.7 billion to P170.2 billion “to enhance the region’s production output.” Would it be impossible that one-third of the budget, or about P56 billion, would be lost to corruption and waste, too, just like the previous years?


The DA had been asked to give an explanation for its unliquidated and unexplained expenses, but the AA has yet to receive a satisfactory response.

The AA thereafter requested for a restoration of a practice implemented by the Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, which successfully prevented such corruption and waste in the past. The practice allowed the private sector-led regional agriculture and fisheries councils to receive and look into a complete list of DA-funded projects. In effect, the private sector was able to monitor agriculture budget compliance and ring the alarm whenever there was a case of corruption.

This request was likewise denied.

The AA was successful in making this budget monitoring practice a conditionality in the Feb. 27, 2023 ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). However, as of today, or nine months later, this conditionality has yet to be attended to.

The Senate must keep its promise, as documented in the RCEP ratification agreement. If RCEP conditionalities such as this are not met, the Senate “may recommend to the President the withdrawal from the Agreement.”

With the COA, the private sector, and Laurel at the helm of the DA, strong political will may finally ensure that this practice is restored. Hopefully, the much-publicized rhetoric of fighting corruption will come to fruition and spur the agriculture transformation we so badly need. INQ

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is agriwatch_phil@yahoo.

TAGS: agriwatch, Commission on Audit (COA), farmers and fisherfolk

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.