ON THE front page of Inquirer’s June 19 issue, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was quoted thus: “The Department of Agriculture (DA) alone cannot achieve its goals of food security for Filipinos. That is why we are ready and willing to listen to our farmers, suppliers and the private sector, because only public-private partnerships will take us to that goal.”
However, if the appropriate structure does not follow strategy, that strategy may fail.
At the Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) Food Summit held last Feb. 10-11, a structure started to evolve.
<STRONG>Private sector structure</STRONG>
AF 2025 had several working groups. The groups and their respective coordinators are the following: Rice and Food Cereals: former Science and Technology Minister Emil Javier; Poultry and Livestock: United Broiler Raisers Association president Gregorio San Diego; Fisheries: Southeast Asian Fisheries for Justice Chair Arsenio Tanchuling; Food and Vegetables: Philfoodex president Robert Amores; Commercial Crops: University of Asia and the Pacific Agribusiness Center executive director Rolando Dy; and Cross-Cutting Issues (such as credit, LGU involvement, International trade and rural women empowerment): Former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani.
AF 2025 will reconvene six months after its initial Feb. 10 conference to assess its performance.
But since AF 2025 was a tripartite conference convened by the legislature (Senate and House), executive branch (DA) and the private sector (farmers and fisherfolk, as well as agribusiness), the private sector recommended an interim meeting, which was conducted last May 25.
Each of the six agricultural subsectors reported on progress made in the first three months. However, while some subsectors showed significant progress, others did not. The main reason why other sectors are lagging is that the government did not provide the same level of commitment and action as that shown in other subsectors. In these lagging subsectors, no government official was made responsible, so there was no pressure on the government side to perform. In addition, some of these subsectors rarely met, thus leading to a lack of progress to the disappointment of the private sector.
To prepare for the Aug. 11 AF 2025 review, it is imperative that an appropriate public-private structure for each of the six sub-sectors be established to make AF 2025 strategy a reality. Just as the private sector has identified an accountable coordinator for each subsector, the government should do the same.
An assistant secretary or a DA director should be identified as the main person responsible for each subsector’s success. Since there is no such person, there is a lack of focus and pressure to perform on the government side. The chair of each sub-sector group should be from the government, while the co-chair should be the identified private sector coordinator.
The first task that has not yet been completed is to have this structure review, monitor, and evaluate each of the recommendations given at the AF 2025 Conference. Priorities should then be jointly determined, and decisive actions taken.
<STRONG>Model to follow</STRONG>
The most impressive example I have seen in public-private governance was the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Anti-Smuggling (Cocas). On the government side, it was composed of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes as the chair, and four key officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Finance, and Justice.
On the private sector side, it was composed of the Alyansa Agrikultura for agriculture, and the Federation of Philippine Industries for industry. Responsibilities were determined for each participant, with the late Secretary Reyes as the main person accountable for overall performance.
The group jointly planned, implemented and monitored the anti-smuggling program with government and private sector assignments. To ensure progress, meetings were held every two weeks. The government was always in charge. It was the only time that an anti-smuggling effort achieved great success. Perhaps because of this, the Cocas was abolished.
Food security is more important than fighting smuggling. We should therefore fully support Secretary Alcala so that each AF 2025 subsector will show the same commitment as COCAS. With the recommended public-private structure following the AF 2025 strategy, we can look forward to a successful Aug. 11 follow-up conference.
But without the appropriate structure, the strategy for food security will become more rhetoric than reality.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for Agriculture, and Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112)