MANILA-- President Rodrigo Duterte reported to Congress on Monday that there were no irregularities in the Department of Agriculture's purchase of urea fertilizers as the Senate prepares to investigate claims of overpricing from farmers' groups.
Duterte, in his 14th report to Congress on the government's pandemic response, said the agriculture department reported that bidding for the procurement of the fertilizers was transparent.
"As to the alleged overpricing in the procurement of urea fertilizer, the DA has reported that the centralized fertilizer bidding is above board, transparent, and has in fact brought urea prices down," the President said in his June 29 report.
Farmers' group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) earlier alleged that the DA bought overpriced fertilizers, upon comparing the results of their canvass to the price ceiling set by the agency.
The group claimed that the DA could have saved P2.5 million if it bought fertilizer for the commercial price of P850 a bag instead of P990.
The agriculture department however defended its procurement, saying the awarded bidding price that ranged from P900 to P995 per bag is lower than the national average price of urea fertilizer which was at P1,051 per bag as of April this year.
The President added that the DA has improved its fertilizer distribution system for transparency.
"The DA has taken the necessary measures to enhance the system of fertilizer distribution, including geo-tagging, posting of all recipients or beneficiaries, system digitization, and institution of an 'integrity group'," Duterte said.
The said "integrity group" is composed of NGOs, civil society organizations, regional agricultural fishery councils, and other private sector representatives, to "observe and monitor" fertilizer distribution, he added.