GROWTH in the country’s agricultural sector cannot be achieved in six years or during the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, newly appointed Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Thursday.
In a briefing with Palace reporters, the former senator explained that “irreversible” agricultural growth can only be realized between 15 and 20 years as shown by the experiences of other Asian countries.
“Whoever says that it can be fixed in two years [or], in fact, within six years, is just joking because it cannot be [done],” Pangilinan said.
“And whoever would say that after six years we can truly be progressive and be considered a First World country is deceiving us,” he pointed out.
Pangilinan, who had headed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, was designated by Malacañang to be its point man who will coordinate the government’s programs under the National Convergence Initiative (NCI) in line with the six-year Philippine Development Plan (PDP). He took control of the National Food Authority (NFA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), which were previously attached to the Department of Agriculture.
Pangilinan said the challenge for him is to implement measures “so that the process of reform in the agriculture sector becomes irreversible.”
“So we have two years to do that and I think, given the two years, we can make a lot of headway in the areas that we have been asked to look into and to help fix,” he stressed.
Pangilinan said he will put premium on irrigation by working closely with the Department of Public Works and Highways under Secretary Rogelio Singson. He underscored the need to fast-track irrigation projects that cost billions.
“Irrigation should be given extra time. In fact, I know that P58 billion was asked by NIA this year so where will the funds go?” he asked.
With regard to the NFA, Pangilinan said he will discuss with other officials how to make the process of accreditation in granting import permits more transparent. This, he added, will ensure that legitimate rice traders, not any rice cartel, will dominate the market.
“These are concerns that I think we can work around. If this administration has been able to do some house-cleaning, more or less . . . I don’t see why we cannot do the same in the NFA,” he said. Pangilinan cited “changes” in the Bureau of Customs.