DA as center of the universe | Inquirer Business

DA as center of the universe

World Food Day is celebrated globally every year on Oct. 16.

But for the Philippines, given our present hunger and poverty situation, there was not much reason to celebrate this year.


We can reverse this only if we make DA the “center of the universe.”

By “center of the universe,” we mean not only giving DA the highest priority, we also mean getting all related government agencies to support a direction the DA will provide.



Let as analyze our situation. We have limited land. Our population is large and increasing rapidly. For the last five years, our agricultural growth was 0 percent, 0 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and only 1 percent so far this year. This is well below the government target of 4-5 percent. On top of all this, our farmers and fisherfolk face unpredictable and potentially dangerous climate change.

Technology is a key solution to this problem. Last week, I heard a radio interview with Llorina Ranada. Motivated by a desire to help the poor learned from Singles for Christ, she left a secure job for a temporary position at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI-tel. 9201655). At 29 years old, she is now a respected researcher there.

Here are three PNRI technology examples that Ranada said could increase food supply, make it cost-effective, and ensure food safety.

For increased production, one can use radiation to create hydrogels that are put into the soil to increase production. To make production cost effective, radioactive material can be used as a tracer to find out which part of the specific plant the nutrients go to. Consequently, spraying follar to the optimal plant parts becomes more efficient since the follar will not go to the wrong places. As for safety, radioactive material can be used to determine the level of toxins in shellfish during a red tide. This way, consumers can be warned when the toxin levels are high, and the fisherfolk can continue their livelihood when these levels are safe.

When I asked Ranada if she felt her desire for helping people was being fulfilled through her technology work, she answered: “Definitely. However, so much more can be done. I see our technologies helping people get more food, in a cost-effective way, and with the appropriate safety measures, as I have shown by these three examples.”

Larger budget


She continued: “But very, very few know about them. If we have a larger budget, we can replicate these technologies in more areas to benefit more people, especially the poor.”

DA should take the lead in championing this technology transfer. DA can also recommend which radiation technologies will best achieve the twin goals of food security and raising farmer and fisherfolk incomes. This way, PNRI can adjust its research priorities accordingly.

If DA is the “center of the universe,” it is not only the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that should listen to DA. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should also look for the markets where the agriculture products can be sold.

More importantly, DTI should identify the true market needs so that DA will promote the raw and processed products that the DTI will identify.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) should give high priority to DA’s identification of what the farmers and fisherfolk need to bring their products efficiently to their respective markets, such as the optimal road and bridge network.

The Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) should locate where the poor people are, so that DA can give the proper attention.

The Department of Education (DepEd) should teach elementary school children ways of producing food efficiently and safely.

This may encourage the youth to enter the noble and potentially lucrative agriculture profession, especially since the average age of our farmers today is 57 years old.

Most importantly, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should encourage the governors and mayors to actively seek DA advice on how to increase food security and raise farmers’ and fisherfolk’s incomes.

The 17,000 agriculture extension workers now report to the LGU, not the DA.

But the link of the extension workers to agriculture technology is still with the DA.

Therefore, the LGU should fully support the DA as it fulfills its mandate to develop the country’s agriculture sector.


With the recent scandalous anomalies discovered at the DA, we must first have a Secretary-led DA overhaul before we can proceed effectively. Only after this is done can the DA become an effective “center of the universe.”

If this overhaul is done immediately, next year’s World Food Day in the Philippines can be a true celebration, instead of a sad reminder of our situation today.

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

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TAGS: Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, Philippines, World Food Day
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