Thursday, April 27, 2017
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Commentary

Troubled paradise

The 1.1 percent decline recorded in the fourth quarter last year indicates trouble for our potential agriculture paradise. Good news seemed within reach after the 2.9 percent growth recorded the previous quarter.

In total, the average 0.6 percent agriculture decline is in direct contrast to the 7.1 percent growth in the industry sector. This can be reversed if the six priority areas identified by both President Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol are immediately addressed.

On April 16, 2016, the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) met with then presidential candidate Duterte. The AFA is composed of farmers, fisherfolk, scientists, etc.

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Duterte agreed to take action on the stakeholders’ recommendations. A month later, it was Piñol who met with them and took heed of the same recommendations.

We identify here one of these six recommendations: Build an effective Department of Agriculture (DA) bureaucracy with a globally recognized management system (ISO 9000).

The DA bureaucracy did well in the first three months of Duterte’s administration. However, this quickly deteriorated when old habits came back.

AFA observed Piñol’s goals were not being attained. This was because ISO 9000 was not implemented in many critical parts of the DA bureaucracy. For contrast, all units within the DTI has the ISO 9000 system. DA must now do the same.

It should be noted that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has advocated ISO 9000 installation in all government departments. DTI did this with corresponding impressive results.

What is ISO 9000? ISO 9000 is a globally accepted quality management system. It “provides guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customers’ requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.”

In 1986, when I started in government as Trade Undersecretary, I observed that the countries we exported to were hesitant to buy Philippine products. This is because they had no assurance of consistent quality.

We then introduced ISO 9000 in the Philippines. The certification gave our foreign customers the quality assurance they wanted. Our exports then grew significantly.

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Our agriculture sector should get the same assurance of DA quality service that our foreign customers demand from our exporters. The DBM should require at least the start of ISO 9000 certification before the 2018 release of the DA budget.

That is like an advocacy growing teeth.

The DBM should stay true to its name of looking not only after the budget, but management as well. Without good management, the budget is wasted through corruption. We have seen this before.

Most employees in the DA bureaucracy should be admired for their dedication. But without ISO 9000, a few senior officials are able to manipulate both the budget and the people for their own selfish ends.

We must implement ISO 9000 in all DA units as soon as possible. Only then can our dream of a Philippine agriculture paradise come true.

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: agri, Agriculture, Business, Emmanuel Piñol, fishery, Growth
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