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Cagayan board member slams governor over vetoed agricultural loan ordinance

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Cagayan First District Board Member Cristopher T. Barcena slammed Governor Manuel Mamba on deciding to veto an ordinance allotting P30 million for agricultural loans for farmers and cooperatives in the province.

In his privilege speech in the 51st Regular Session on Wednesday, August 9, Barcena expressed his disappointment over the vetoed Provincial Ordinance No.2017-09-04, “An Ordinance Allocating Funds for Institutionalizing the provision of No Interest on Agricultural Production Loans to Cooperatives and Farmers’ Associations.”

“Hindi niya binigyan ng pansin at hindi binigyan ng kahalagahan ang ordinansang ito. Nakakalimutan po ata ng ating Gobernador na agrikultura ang isa dapat na prayoridad ng ating lalawigan,” he said.

Barcena said that a number of farmers are losing their land because of the high interest rates of  loans offered in the province, which he claims is at 5% monthly on average.

He claimed that farmers borrow as much as 30,000 for land. “If they fail to settle their loans, farmers offer their land as payment,” he added.

The ordinance would have provided capital for no interest loans to cooperatives and farmers’ associations in the province. P30 million is allotted for the first year and a further P10 million for succeeding years.

The board member also slammed Mamba for closing provincial hospitals and vetoing another ordinance granting scholarship for senior high schools which he believed were important.

He also took another jab at Mamba, saying that the vetoed budget for the agricultural loan is more than half of the governor’s proposed gasoline allowance worth P18 million.

“Bakit po pagkakaitan ang mga maralitang magsasaka na dapat tungkulin ng ating gobyerno na iahon sa kanila sa kahirapan dahil sa sistema ng pagpapautang,” he added.

The board passed the ordinance on its third reading in their 49th regular session last July 24 in Ballesteros, Cagayan.

Refused to sign

Governor Mamba refused to sign the ordinance on August 8, Tuesday, citing three reasons.

Mamba stated that the province has yet to collect P36,473,271.72 from various loans under the Micro Financing Assistance Program of the Peoples Action Center from the previous administration.

He also said that only P58,000 of the P36 million has been collected by the province in their extended efforts to reclaim loans.

Mamba suggested instead that, should the province provide loans in the future, it should be in partnership with a bank which he believed had “technical expertise” in verifying creditworthiness of cooperatives and associations.

The governor believed that it was not logical to give additional loans when the provincial government has yet to claim millions worth of unpaid loans from “anomalous circumstances.”

He also said the province has a Credit Service Fund (CSF) for Micro Small and Medium Enterprise through a Memorandum of Agreement with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Industrial Guarantee and Loan Fund, and Alcala Municipal Employees Credit Cooperative to verify the credit worthiness of cooperatives.

Mamba said that the provincial government still has P5 million funded to the CSF. Thus, the passage of the ordinance would be against the existing fund and may add to the “financial burden” of the province.

Lastly, the governor stated that the creation of the Provincial Loans for Cooperatives and Farmers’ Associations Committee, section three of the ordinance, violates the principle of separation of powers in government.

Mamba said that only the executive has the power and right to enforce all projects, programs, services, and activities; and to determine policies and guidelines in the province, as stated in the Local Government Code.

Barcena hits back

Barcena said he had the records from the previous administration. He claimed that records show that, from 2007 to 2013, P9,056,818 remain uncollected which he said was contrary to what Mamba claimed was P36 million.

He added that, from the uncollected P9 million, P3,297,772.08 have been claimed by the province and that only a balance of P5,759,045 remained.

Because of this, Barcena said that he would once again call the province’s finance department in a committee hearing call for the ordinance.

He wondered why representatives of the executive department did not question the alleged receivables during their committee hearing.

Barcena also said that members of the committee created under the ordinance is enough to ensure the implementation of the ordinance. Members include the SP Chair on Committee on Agriculture, provincial agriculturist, and a representative from the Department of Agriculture.

Regarding the existing CSF, he said that the CSF is only intended to increase the creditworthiness of MSMEs and is therefore dissimilar to the ordinance which aims to allocate funds and extend help to small scale farmers for providing interest loans.

Barcena asserted that they do not encroach the powers of Mamba and that “it is unwise and impractical to impose strict and complete separation of powers in an integral system” such as the provincial government.

“Certain powers are to be reposed in more than one department so that they will better collaborate with each other; and in the process check each other for the sake of a good and efficient government,” he said.

“Sana maintindihan ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ang matagal na pong hinaing ng mga kababayan, ang mabigyan po sila ng ayuda para maiahon sila sa kahirapan,” said Barcena. Northernforum.net

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