Ombudsman probe to look into possible conspiracy in DA, FTI onion purchase

Ombudsman probe to look into possible conspiracy in DA, FTI onion purchase
The Department of Agriculture announced on Monday its plan to import 22,000 metric tons of onion as prices zoomed in the past two months. 
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Samuel Martires said Wednesday that his office’s investigation into the purchase of onions by the Department of Agriculture and Food Terminal Inc. from a Nueva Ecija cooperative will look into the possibility that there was collusion between government officials and the private sector.

“We will check if there was collusion, direct conspiracy, between some officials of the Department of Agriculture and the private sector,” Martires said partly in Filipino on DZBB.

“We need to wait for the explanation of FTI. Why did they purchase onions from this cooperative? What other cooperatives bidded?” he said.

He added: “If it was negotiated, they have to justify why they resorted to a negotiated contract.”

DZBB first reported Tuesday that the Ombudsman will investigate the DA and FTI’s purchase of onions worth P537 per kilo from Bonena Multipurpose Cooperative.

Succeeding reports from other news outlets said the Ombudsman has summoned DA and FTI officials for procuring P140 million worth of onions from Bonena and for deciding to import the bulbs when the local harvest season is about to start.

Speaking over DZBB on Wednesday, Martires said among the officials who have been asked to explain is Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, a senior official in the agency who had served as agriculture chief during the Estrada and Arroyo administrations.

“We will ask him for an explanation why we bidded at that price and why we will be importing onions now,” Martires said.

According to the Philippine News Agency, onions purchased by the DA and FTI at P537 per kilo were sold at only P170 per kilo at Kadiwa sites, a program initiated by the government to bring commodities to communities at much lower prices.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez said the department is open to an investigation, considering that all government transactions are bound by proper procurement measures.

“Those activities are welcome because they have the authority to do that. That’s referring to the downloaded P140 million to the FTI, followed by onion procurement,”  Estoperez said.

Importation of onions

Meanwhile, some lawmakers have raised concerns on the approval of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who also heads the agriculture portfolio, to import 21,060 metric tons of yellow and red onions into the country to temper prices of the bulb, which soared to P700 per kilo in some markets.

“The importation is obviously being done belatedly. The imports should have been authorized two months ago in time for the holidays. This error is unforgivable. The BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry) and the DA wrongly predicted that the December domestic supplies would be enough to cover the demand,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros proposed to import half of the amount authorized by the president and then “wait and see” if the upcoming harvest would be enough to meet demand and bring down onion prices.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III echoed this saying: “It’s too late to import onions. It will not do our farmers and consumers any good if we import at this point when locally-produced onions are about to be harvested.”

“We should not fall into that trap,” Pimentel said. “The move could negatively affect the income and business of local farmers who are about to harvest locally-produced onions.” — Xave Gregorio with reports from PNA

vuukle comment




  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with