AGRICULTURE Secretary Proceso Alcala ordered a stop in the bidding for equipment that can trace toxic chemicals in fish, a move that may have saved government around P25-30 million.

Alcala revealed this when asked about charges of corruption in his department under the past administration including the now infamous fertilizer scam, the funds of which were supposed to have been used to help the election campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the mid-2000s.

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Asked why the bidding was stopped, Alcala said the specifications were so worded as to allow only one bidder.

"We think it will be overpriced and self-serving to one company kung naipasa ito dahil inilagay sa term of reference is specification of a certain product na hindi po ito tama. Ibinalik ko at ako ay humingi ng tulong sa DOST (Department of Science and Technology). We are projecting, from this the government has saved P25 to 30 million with just this one transaction," Alcala said.

Alcala vowed that transparency will be observed in the department in all their deals and projects to avoid graft and corruption.

"The best action para magawa natin, maiwasan ang ganitong mga pangyayari is to avoid na kakunting tao lang ang nakakaalam. Maraming itinatago at iilang tao ang nakakaalam. I'll see to it na lahat ng biddings sa lahat ng attached agencies sa mga department ay gusto kong transparent," Alcala said during Monday's Kapihan sa SM at SM City Davao where he also graced the opening of the 3rd Kaniyogan Festival, a trade exhibit of coconut products and by-products.

Earlier, Alcala discussed with Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte the city's plans and programs for agricultural development in upland communities.

Alcala said he is consulting with local leaders on how to improve agricultural production in their areas in line with President Benigno Aquino III's mandate that the Department of Agriculture (DA) work with the local government units.

In an interview before the forum, Duterte said she had a breakfast meeting with Alcala where they discussed possible programs that may take shape in the next years in the city with the help of the DA.

"We discussed number one, a creation of a mariculture park in Matina Aplaya which has the support of the locales there. Number two, is improving our farm to market roads, improving the access from the upland to our market here. We have also identified our linkages from one barangay to another. Number three, is (the creation of) a food terminal," Duterte said in an interview at Central 911 where she planned to meet associations of those recently demolished in Barangay Sasa.

There were several others discussed, she said, but the three are the major ones.

Duterte also detailed last week her plan to strengthen the city's counter-insurgency measures through agri-development in Marilog and Paquibato districts, which are infected by insurgency.

"One reason is we lean towards agri-development as a counterinsurgency but another reason is really, majority of our land area in the city is covered by the Marilog, Paquibato, and Calinan area. We have a huge land area there in the uplands and these has been untapped for development for some time. This is why I asked former City Councilor Leo Avila to go up there and see how these areas can be developed," she said referring to Avila who is currently the City Agriculture Office OIC.

Being considered as cash crops are abaca, cacao and coffee.

"We have the seeds, we have the nursery. I also want them to look into bamboo. While we are preparing the uplands, we will also prepare the infrastructure development hand in hand. The budget for this is still being prepared by Avila, there would be a proposal for that," she said.

Alcala said the President has ordered him to keep close contact with local government units, agriculture sectors, and attached government units.

"Ito po yung mandate na ibinigay sa atin ni President Noy Aquino na dapat maramdaman ng buong bansa na ang department of agriculture ngayon ay hindi nagso-solo sa kung anong mga proyekto ang ibababa kundi po kasama ang LGU units sa isinusulong," Alcala added.

Alcala also shared the vision of Duterte in tapping the city's agriculture land area in the uplands.

"Dito sa Davao ang dami po nating area na pwedeng pagtamnan. Ang laking lugar na pwedeng pagtamnan pero ang problem lang ay hindi naabot ng tubig. I have issued an order na sa pagpaparami ng ating rice production kasama rito ang indigenous people para lang po magparami," Alcala said. (Jade C. Zaldivar)