Salt can corrode P-Noy’s anti-corruption campaign


On May 30 and 31, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will be conducting region-based public biddings for the supply of salt intended as fertilizer for millions of coconut trees. The contract is worth hundreds of millions of pesos, and it appears a syndicate that controlled the supply of salt to the PCA is sharpening its knives to make another big killing. This consortium of companies is working closely with PCA board director Oscar Garin Sr. It’s a relationship that began more than three years ago when he was still PCA Administrator.

Not too many people understand the money behind salt as fertilizer for coconut trees. Salt isn’t just for the dinner table; it has been found to be good fertilizer material for the “tree of life”. Indeed, we’ve always associated the images of coconut trees with beaches. They grow better, and produce more nuts, in salty environments. When this idea came to Garin, he saw an avenue to make money, not for the industry as a whole, but for his own.

It was former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor who exposed the overpricing and rigged bidding for a P1.89 billion salt fertilization project sometime in April 2008. Of course, Garin denied any anomaly in the transaction. But sources have stepped forward to validate the reported irregularities. They also pointed to the role of Garin in covering up the collusion among bidders that the Bids and Awards Committee had uncovered. Garin made sure there were no hitches.

What was this anomaly that Garin covered up? During the bidding, the two companies that took part were found to have only one and the same person as board secretary. It was a seemingly insignificant detail, but that had earthshaking consequences. It proved that the two groups were conniving to corner the project. It was a crude attempt to rig the bidding. But this didn’t result in the blacklisting of the suppliers. Garin just glossed this anomaly over, and he allowed the transaction to proceed.

According to sources, Garin held meetings with Artemis Salt Corp. and Saltland Corp. at the Sulo Hotel to iron things out. He made it possible for the two corporations to take part in the transaction despite blatant violations of RA 9184, or the Government Procurement Law, on collusion among bidders. Of course, it needs no saying that he got his cut from the deal.

Now Garin, even though he’s been demoted to a board position in the PCA, wants to use the salt fertilization project as a fountain of money. He is reportedly jockeying to have Artemis Salt Corp., and another company, J.Y. Corp., to take part in the bidding for this year’s requirements for the salt fertilization project and corner the transaction. With Garin’s meddling, Artemis was not sanctioned by way of blacklisting.

The big question is: Will the Aquino administration allow this mockery of his anti-corruption campaign to succeed?

To make the next bidding more transparent, the PCA has split up the supply contracts to its regional offices. It is supposed to give local salt producers a better chance to get a share of this project. But it appears Garin isn’t getting the message for him to back off. He is reportedly making use of his remaining clout and influence to corner a big slice of the contract with Artemis as his front.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala should immediately look into this. He should demand an explanation from the PCA Bids and Awards Committee why Artemis Salt Corp. wasn’t blacklisted and is, in fact, still being allowed to transact with the PCA. Artemis Salt Corp. is also selling imported salt from Australia. If this company snares the contract, then local producers will end up holding an empty bag. It will also put to naught the President’s campaign against corruption in an agency which has been marred by scandals during the incumbency of Garin as Administrator.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

4 Responses to Salt can corrode P-Noy’s anti-corruption campaign

  1. Julius K. Alejo says:

    Poor Juan dela Cruz! He’s been suffering for long while the few greedy vultures keep pouncing on him. He needs only a grain of salt to go with his handful of rice yet, unknown to him he is being robbed of it and the thief is turning it into gold unmindful of his crime committed. When this will ever end? This is the time that PNoy must show his sincere intent to rid the government of pests that bring woes to the people!

  2. After this blog post was published, I got text messages saying this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s being alleged that there were ghost deliveries as well. Some people have really perfected corruption to a level of art.

  3. boxmeister says:

    There is a certain point in the fight against corruption that the more we try to eradicate them, the more we open up a can of worms. P-Noy should see to it that all government agencies must adhere to the established laws by issuing an executive order to strictly enforce them. Otherwise, all efforts will be wasted..because time and time again, we will see the same pattern, different crooks delving into transactions that are vested to enrich themselves. The crooks who hold positions of public trust must be penalized and punished so there will be no repeat offenders. A strong leader in the Presidency must ensure that this is the way to progress and nothing else. Love of country is prerequisite to order and discipline. Ever wonder why many leave the country to find better living? They cannot rely on the government as much as trust them for their devotion to duty. Progress is utopic and corruption is innate.

  4. exartemisemployee says:

    I am an ex- employee of Artemis Salt Corp. and i can be a witness to any trial or case against this company. They can survey to all areas in the Philippines regarding the real price of the product and compare it with the price they had in the bidding or the price they had for the PCA. The price goes double and sometimes more. I even once told to bring money to one of the offices in manila for the bidding. And we paid all the expenses and accommodation of PCA officials for the recent bidding in region XI and of gensan, davao, agusan and cotabato area.

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