Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bansot Rice - A Heritage of PGMA

House to probe 'bansot' GMA rice
By Jess Diaz Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM
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MANILA, Philippines - Have you heard of GMA “bansot” rice?

The House committee on agriculture wants to know what it is, and the panel is launching an investigation.

Resolution 966, authored by Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson, prompted the inquiry.

Joson said he has been receiving complaints from hundreds of farmers in his province about what they described as their “bansot” or undersized rice crops.

He said the problems began when farmers started using the hybrid seed SL-8, which the Department of Agriculture (DA) is distributing under its Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program.

Among the problems farmers encountered with SL-8 seeds are premature flowering and poor growth of their palay, he said.

“Because of these, our farmers are forced to uproot the hybrid plants for replanting. They thus spend more on seeds, which drives them deeper into debt,” he added.

Joson learned that farmers pay P2,500 of the P4,000 cost of a sack of SL-8 seeds. The DA subsidizes the P1,500 balance.

The hybrid is named after its supplier, SL Agritech, whose owner Henry Lim Bon Liong is reportedly a close friend of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

The company’s product is the only hybrid seed that the government subsidizes. Other suppliers and importers like Bayer and Pioneer have to sell at market prices.

Joson smells an irregularity. He said the House should ask Yap why only one supplier is receiving hundreds of millions in subsidies.

He said another problem farmers encounter is that by the time they replant other varieties after uprooting their hybrid plants, it would already be the rainy season, and they would have to contend with possible extreme weather conditions that could destroy their new crops.

He said the problems farmers are reporting have implications for the country’s rice supply.

“When the hybrid was introduced, the government told rice farmers that it entailed low production cost but would give them higher yields. Now farmers are experiencing the opposite,” he said.

He pointed out that among the country’s more than 75 provinces, Nueva Ecija is the largest rice producer.

According to reports, Yap’s department had P551 million in hybrid rice subsidy in 2004, P780 million in 2005, P1.6 billion in 2006, and P2.5 billion in 2007.

Joson said the House should determine where all these funds went.

Yap’s agency has become one of the most scandal-ridden departments.

Among other controversies, there was the P728-million fertilizer scam in 2004, the much bigger P5-billion swine lending scandal in 2004 and 2005, and a repeat of the fertilizer and farm input irregularities in 2007 and 2008.

In the fertilizer scam, funds were given to congressmen and local officials who were administration allies. The recipients in turn gave away the money to private foundations.

The same pattern of misuse of funds was repeated in 2007 and 2008.

Sourced at Philippine Star, February 17, 2009 (Report by Mr. Jess Diaz)

Posted by: Mel Alarilla


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