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President’s Sona and agriculture


P-Noy’s recent Sona is a portent of good things to come to the agriculture sector.

It also supports a joint circular signed by the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) advocating a mechanism for strong public-private partnership (PPP).

This is between the DA and DILG on the one hand, and the private sector-led Agriculture Fishery Councils (AFCs) on the other.

The subject of the circular is “the extension of full support to the local Agricultural Fisheries Councils as private sector partners in the implementation of local development policies and programs.”

Since the Local Autonomy Code became law in 1991, the primary responsibility of agriculture development was given to the governors and mayors in their respective localities, no longer to the DA.

All former DA extension workers were subsequently placed under the supervision of the local government units (LGUs).

Since then, our agriculture development has stagnated. Many blamed the lack of coordination between the DA (which has the budget and the technology) and the LGU (which has the extension workers and agriculture development mandate).

Since 1991, there have been two Memos of Agreement forged by the DA and the DILG for better coordination. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The recent joint Circular has added an important dimension. It now includes the private sector-led AFCs in the governance mechanism. The Circular directs both DA and DILG to give full support to the AFCs by their “involvement in the local planning and budgeting process,” and “the designation of a full-time AFC Secretariat Coordinator at the provincial and municipal levels.”

The private sector-led AFCs will now be the focus of the planning and implementation of agriculture development.

With this circular, an important seed has been planted.

The AFCs must show diligence, determination and dedication so that the President’s confidence in the private sector will not be wasted.

In the Sona, the President identified the strengthening of the agriculture sector.

He said: “The proof is in the data. This sector grew 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2013. This is triple the 1.1 percent growth recorded in the same time period in 2012. That is why we continue to sow initiatives that will certainly bear the fruits of even greater progress of our farmers.”

We support this statement in the context of a four-year time frame.

Under the previous administration in 2009 and 2010, agriculture did not grow at all. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala turned this around to 2 percent and 3 percent growth in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The 3.3 percent growth in the first three months of 2013 shows that we are indeed on an upward trend.

Nevertheless, we fall short of the 4.3 percent to 5.3 percent targeted agricultural growth in our government’s Midterm Development Plan. With a budget of P19 billion in 2007, DA was able to post a 5 percent agriculture growth. This year’s budget of P65 billion is more than three times the 2007 budget. It is now the responsibility of the private-sector led AFCs to work closely with the DA, DILG, and the LGUS to meet the 4.3 percent to 5.3 percent government agriculture growth target.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112.)

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Tags: Agriculture , Philippines , PPP , public-private partnership , SONA 2013

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