PhilMech Chief Says Recent Senate Investigation Helps Farm Mechanization Program

The head of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) said the agency’s current policies, which were questioned by Senator Cynthia A. Villar, are necessary and useful to make its programs efficient mechanization.

PhilMech executive director Dionisio G. Alvindia said the release of Circular Memorandum (MC) 34 and Sugar Order (SO) 318, which were questioned by Villar in a hearing, were more a curse than a boon to agency operations.

Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, recently asked Alvindia to ask its directors to rescind the two documents because they were contrary to the spirit of existing laws.

Villar pointed out that SO 318, which established an advisory body to provide advice on PhilMech’s mechanization programs, was neither mandated nor stipulated in Republic Act (RA) 11203, or the Liberalization Act. of the Rice Trade (RTL) which paved the way for a rice mechanization program filed under PhilMech.

“The purpose of the advisory body is to provide advice on policies and directions for programs and projects that the PhilMech can undertake to make it more relevant and responsive to the needs of our stakeholders,” Alvindia told BusinessMirror.

“It was not created for the RCEF. PhilMech does not have an advisory body unlike other agencies like the Philippine Rice Research Institute,” Alvindia added.

Alvindia pointed out that PhilMech does not violate the spirit of RA 11203 and that the agency even follows its mandate under said law “to the letter”.

Alvindia added that they do not obey the advice and recommendations of the advisory body if it goes against any applicable law.

“We follow the rules and regulations of the RCEF. We can’t deviate from it, otherwise I will face legal action. We religiously follow the IRR of the RTL law,” he said.

“We don’t follow the advisory body if it’s against the spirit of the law,” he added.

Alvindia claimed that the advisory body has also paved the way for PhilMech’s stakeholder involvement in relation to the agency’s programs and projects.

“The advisory body was really created to make sure that stakeholders are involved in setting policy direction for the agency,” he said.

As for the MC 34, Alvindia pointed out that the circular, issued by former Secretary of Agriculture William D. Dar, allowed for greater competition in the purchase of agricultural machinery.

Alvindia explained that the MC 34 reduced the required presence in the market of potential bidders or suppliers of agricultural machinery from 35 years to just 10 years.

“It has been reduced to ensure more suppliers and participate in the tender, which makes it more competitive. According to a 35-year-old market presence rule, only two or three brands can participate in our tenders. ‘offers,’ he added.

Alvindia said that due to the reduced presence required in the market, more than 10 brands are now participating in the PhilMech tender, particularly for the RCEF mechanization program.

Under the RTL Act, PhilMech is mandated to implement the six-year, 5 billion peso annual mechanization program that distributes agricultural machinery free of charge to eligible beneficiary farmers.

Picture credits: PhilMech

Norman D. Briggs