PRESIDENT Rody Duterte immediately granted the request of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol for a presidential executive order placing the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Food Authority (NFA), and Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) back under the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The President also gave Piñol control over the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM), which former President B.S. Aquino had created on May 5, 2014. Aquino made the head of OPAFSAM a Cabinet member. Aquino also made it the overseer of the four largest government agencies that used to be under the DA. These are the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), NFA, NIA, and PCA.
It was an unwise and a bad management decision of BS Aquino to break up the cluster of offices and agencies under the control of the agriculture secretary. The breakup only exacerbated the lack of concern of Aquino for the agriculture and agrarian sector.
A farmer himself, Piñol personally knows what the agriculture sector, and with it, agri-business, needs to become the leading component of the Philippine economy. The most recent data says unemployment has increased by 2 million—to 11 million jobless Filipinos. Most of these are in the rural, the agricultural, areas. Agriculture is where most of our labor force is located because we are still essentially an agricultural country. We are not an industrial economy, and the service sector (BPOs mainly) has unhealthily become the most dominant and productive segment. We must make excellent use of our agriculture resources.
The NFA, NIA, FPA and PCA are the most essential agencies that should serve the aims of the agriculture secretary to achieve the principal goal of Duterte for our country to have food security.
In the reintegration of these agencies with the DA, Piñol simply wants to restore the correct structure. He correctly saw that there was “absolutely NO SENSE in separating the NFA, NIA, FPA and PCA from the DA.
Piñol has also spoken of proposing to the President the creation of a “national food authority council.” He sees that council as the coordinating body to harmonize all the efforts of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), DA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and “even the weather bureau” to ensure the success of programs for food production and greater agricultural productivity.
He had observed that these agencies were uncoordinated; each one going its own way. He saw early on for the activities of the agencies must be consolidated, with each agency going for the same goals and all heading to the same direction.
Duterte has also spoken of his plan to create a department for fisheries and aquatic resources. Piñol hopes to see this department to be formed soon. He laments the neglect by all previous governments of the fisheries sector, which has a huge potential for the Philippines because we have the fifth-longest coastline in the world.