WV mayors warned vs FMR scammers

AGRICULTURE Sec. Manny Piñol (3rd from left) with (from left) DA-6 regional executive director Remelyn Recoter, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr., BFAR National Director Eduardo B Gongona and Assistant Secretary Hansel Didulo in a press conference, Aug. 8, 2017 at Westown Hotel, Iloilo City. (Ricky D. Alejo)

“YOU WERE duped!” exclaimed Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol after hearing that a local government unit in Iloilo almost fell victim to scammers “selling” farm-to-market roads (FMR) in his behalf.

Pinol was in Iloilo City Aug. 8-9, 2017 for the distribution of agricultural support to farmers in Guimaras and Iloilo, and a dialogue with local chief executives (LCEs) including Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. and Mayors Geffrey Alonsabe of Alimodian, Jesry Palmares of Passi City and Mariano Malones of Maasin.

In a meeting with mayors and DA officials Tuesday night, Pinol, who traces his roots to Pototan, Iloilo, learned from Alonsabe that a group of persons who claimed to represent his office approached the Alimodian mayor and negotiated how the LGU can get an FMR project from the department.

Alonsabe said a person who claimed to be with DA asked him to complete certain requirements because there is P100 million from the agency intended for FMR.

“Our town really needs farm-to-market roads, and farmers in the uplands need roads to bring their products to the markets,” said Alonsabe.

The mayor said the LGU complied and spent for the requirements, including geo-tagging of areas that needed the roads.

“Without my knowledge, they arranged the contractors. I learned lately that they asked for 10 percent of P100-million project. Nag-initial sila ng one million, then, lately gusto nila pa-dungangan sang five percent kay i-release na kuno ang pondo,” Alonsabe said.

But he did not take the risk as he doubted the persons who claimed to be representatives of a former DA assistant secretary.

Pinol is not surprised as scams using his name were also reported in Zamboanga and Surigao, among others, and by an Agricultural Training Institute director.

“This world is full of scammers, if you fall for it, kaluluoy ka,” Pinol said.

He advised mayors to ensure the people they are dealing with are indeed from the agency.

He stressed that he is in charge of the FMR program.

“I have taken over the FMR program. Nobody is allowed to make commitments relative to FMR without geo-tagging, and we (DA) are the ones who conduct the geo-tagging. If that is what is happening, I will make sure that your road projects are not included in the listing to prove that I am not involved,” he said.

“Waay takon ga-pangayo. I have never been involved in anything like this, and I will not allow it.”

To date, the DA has a backlog of 13,000 kilometers of FMRs.

“But President Rodrigo Duterte committed to complete the FMRs in the country within his term,” he assured the local chief executives.

For 2018, the proposed budget for FMR was hiked to at least P26 billion to fund the construction of 2,000 kilometers of FMR.

“The farmers are complaining because no matter how big our roads under the Build, Build, Build program, if there are no roads from the farms that will allow them to bring their products to the markets, it’s the same,” Pinol said.

“Di na kamu magpatunto sa mga tawo da kay maabot na kalsada n’yo kay naka-programa na ina,” he assured.

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