Domoguen: Old Battlegrounds, New Challenges & Many Problems

Mountain Light

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has named Dr. William Dar as the new Agriculture Secretary, effective August 5, 2019.

Former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol occupied the position in the last three years.

Piñol submitted his courtesy resignation as Secretary of Agriculture some two months ago, saying that he is doing so “in the best interest of the Department and the stakeholders.”

As DA Secretary, Piñol spent time in the frontlines where he may have endeared himself to many farmers.

However, Senator Bong Go earlier announced that Piñol’s “differences with the nation’s Economic Managers on very critical issues, especially the Rice Liberalization,” has made “his stay at the DA untenable.”

With Dr. Dar’s appointment, Piñol announced that he is “moving to the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) as Chairperson for the next six years.”

The Minda chairmanship is also a Cabinet position.

Starting with Mr. Jose Alejandrino, who assumed office as the first Agriculture Secretary in 1898, Dar will hold the position as the 45th.

Dar will actually assume as DA Secretary for the second time.

He was previously appointed as the 35th DA Secretary by former President Joseph Estrada on June 30, 1998, until he was replaced by Secretary Edgardo Angara on May 25, 1999.

Prior to his appointment by President Duterte as the new DA Secretary, Dar, a horticulturist, was so highly regarded in the international community, as Director-General (DG) of the International Center for Research in the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India, for an unprecedented three terms, a rare feat among DG’s in the UN Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Agriculture has been dragging down the nation’s economy over the past decades, with our small farmers and fisherfolk comprising the majority of the labor force still impoverished, according to experts.

Dr. Emil Q. Javier, a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and also Chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), in an article published at the Manila Bulletin earlier this month wrote that “the new DA secretary will have his hands full. There are just so many fires to douse, and many others to lit.”

Dr. Dar is undaunted. He is ready and prepared for the tasks ahead.

In a press statement released by the DA Central Office, a day after Dar assumed office, he asked the nation to “unite behind President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for a food-secure Philippines” and “to find more ways to make smallholder Filipino farmers and fisherfolk more prosperous, with the ultimate goal of doubling their incomes in five years.”

He added that “this will require the development and meaningful implementation of programs and projects that will result in increased agricultural productivity, competitiveness, and profitability taking into account sustainability and resilience for agriculture smallholders.”

Under his watch, Dar will also see to the proper implementation of “the Rice Tariffication Law including that of its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).”

To address current challenges and problems affecting farmers and the agricultural sector, such as “high production cost, limited cropping diversification, low productivity, low-income elasticity and volatile commodity prices, compounded by numerous factors ranging from the low use of inputs, poor soil health, effects of climate change, among others,” Dar proposed a strategy built around eight paradigms.

These eight paradigms are Modernization of agriculture; Industrialization of agriculture; Promotion of exports; Farm consolidation; Roadmap development; Infrastructure development; Higher budget and investments for agriculture; and Legislative support. These paradigms constitute what he calls “the new thinking for agriculture.”

Dr. Dar’s paradigms are huge chunks to be taken in one bite and chewed in one setting. But they will yet affect all Filipinos including us, Cordillerans. We will watch, even ask Dr. Dar, if he will, to explain these to us as he leads the unfolding and pursuit of the “New Thinking” strategy in agriculture, in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the turnover ceremony for the outgoing DA Secretary Piñol and in-coming DA Secretary Dar is scheduled on 13 August 2019. I will be there to shake their hands.

Both are returning to old battlegrounds, one back in Mindanao, the other at the DA, with new and many challenges.

I hold them both in high esteem and regard. From all of us, all the best of luck, cheers from our hearts, and blessings from above.


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