Government delays cause deathBy Ernesto M. Ordoñez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Delays in government action can lead to death. This is obvious in military encounters. But in agriculture, the impact on lives is there but not as obvious.
For example, when government delays a critical anti-smuggling action, a farmer cannot get the money for the medicine needed to save a dying family member.
This is because his product cannot compete with the subsidized underpriced and possibly dangerous (e.g., no phytosanitary clearance) smuggled item.
The Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) is especially upset over the death of AA board member and KASAMNE Onion Growers chair Rodolfo Niones last February 15. As confirmed by his wife, Theresa, and witnessed by AA leaders, the delay in Bureau of Customs (BoC) action was the major stress factor that caused the cancer that killed Niones.
From Sept. 22, 2009, until the day he died, or for more than two years and four months, BoC did not act on a well-documented case against 63 smuggled onion shipments.
The AA filed a case in the Ombudsman’s office against BoC officials for this inaction. Ironically, the Ombudsman also took no action.
Thankfully, when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales took over, there was immediate action. It was most welcome, but it was too late. Two days later, Niones died.
Edwin Chen, AA vice-president and chair of the Pork Producers Association that helped spearhead the recent pork holiday, says that 20 percent of small backyard raisers who produce 60 percent of our pork have lost their livelihood in the last two years. This was because of delayed BoC action on well-documented anti-smuggling complaints.
Action was finally taken after one year and three months of waiting and thousands of livelihoods had been lost.
The following are the relevant dates: (1) Feb. 11, 2012—anti-smuggling recommendations unanimously approved at the Agriculture Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) Conference; (2) April 2, 2012—two full-page ads; (3) April 9-11—national agricultural conference; (4) April 27-28—pork and poultry holiday; (5) May 3—press conference; and (6) May 7—action finally taken on critical anti-smuggling recommendations.
A recent glaring example of delay is that a letter to the Office of the President signed by now deceased Niones on Aug. 8, 2011, received a response from the DA only two days ago. Isn’t a wait of nine months and eight days depressing?
But the most devastating result of government delays is the death of dreams. Farmers dreamed of a fair and responsive government under a new 2010-2016 administration. Only the farmers, spearheaded by AA’s KASAMNE, conducted a march for clean elections when they learned of Smartmatic deficiencies.
Only the farmers, led by AA’s PAKISAMA, staged a 10-day fasting and partial hunger strike immediately before Election Day to advocate clean elections because of Smartmatic failings.
The farmers dreamed of a better life where smuggling would be stopped. But BoC delays over the last two years have killed many of those dreams.
A specific issue is that the promised May 7 BoC electronic transfer to DA of the Inward Foreign Manifest, which contains critical import information, has been delayed up to now. What takes only one hour has not been done for the last 11 days. One should not be surprised if lack of political will translate to loss of farmer votes in the 2013 elections.
Since Cabinet secretaries have proven that they can act fast when problems arise, they must not be hindered from taking swift action by some of their middle-level officials who are responsible for the delays.
The solution is that they must implement the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) that P-Noy advocates. They should also follow P-Noy’s directive of “Ikaw ang boss Ko.” They should not wait for events like national conferences, full-page ads, and pork and poultry holidays for them to know the problem.
An oversight PPP five-person group (from DoF, DA, DTI, private agriculture, and private industry) should meet monthly to recommend and, more importantly, monitor BoC and related government agency action. Delays will then be minimized, as well as the deaths of farmers, livelihoods and dreams. Hope will then be restored, and actual progress achieved.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax (02) 85221.)
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=60045