Piñol, partnership and prosperity
Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol can best bring prosperity to agriculture and the rural poor if he uses partnership as a strategy.
In two separate meetings on May 24, I saw Piñol commit to forming strategic partnerships. The first meeting was with former President Fidel V. Ramos, known for his UST (unity, solidarity and teamwork) mantra. The second was with the Agri-Fisheries Alliance, where five agri coalitions united on Dec. 12, 2015 to help bring about change in agriculture.
In their meeting, Piñol and Ramos talked about partnerships in the government at three levels: within the department, across departments and at the executive-legislative level.
Piñol will work for a department that will address the whole of agriculture. This means the National Food Authority, National Irrigation Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority will be folded into the Department of Agriculture.
At the inter-department level, Piñol vowed to be an active member of the Economic Cabinet Cluster. Though agriculture directly accounts for only 10 percent of GDP, it actually accounts for 40 percent if agriculture’s ancillary connections such as food processing (the largest manufacturing sector), marketing, and transportation are included.
Piñol will partner with the Department of Finance’s Bureau of Customs to curb the smuggling rate that has increased from 27 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2014. He disagrees with the statement of a DA undersecretary that “agriculture smuggling is the job of BOC, not the DA.”
Also, Piñol will push for partnership between the legislative and executive branches of government through the reestablishment of the Ramos-initiated Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac). This is to ensure that laws will be passed to support the DA’s initiatives.
He likewise met with key leaders of AFA’s five-member coalitions, representing different agriculture sub-sectors: Alyansa Agrikultura (AA-farmers and fisherfolk), Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Fisheries Inc. (PCAFI-agribusiness), Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP-science and academe), Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK-rural women) and Agriculture Fisheries 2025 (AF2025-multisectoral leaders).
Piñol was requested to expand on his vision and marching orders, as stated in his book “Feeding Millions: The Duterte Food Security Blueprint” that is now available in bookstores. He said two essential parts of this vision were poverty alleviation and food security. The main marching order is to help ensure enough food for the Filipino family, with anything extra sold to augment family income.
AF2025’s Bobby Amores supported this, but added that we must also consider economies of scale and competitive advantage. Piñol said this would be done, but the family’s food security should be first ensured. He explained his other creative initiatives, including centers that will make available farm equipment, production inputs, market information and potential market agreements.
AA’s Bong Inciong and CAMP’s Emil Javier then presented the six priority recommendations of the five coalitions, which were also discussed with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting on April 16.
The AFA leaders initially thought that Duterte disagreed with their advocacy on land reform with support services. Duterte clarified he was against land reform in its present form, but that he would support it with necessary changes. In the meeting on May 24, Piñol agreed to this and the other agreements made with Duterte earlier.
At the end of the meeting, Piñol said he wished to regularly talk to AFA as a policy advisory group. The leaders welcomed this but they also wished to give recommendations not only on policy, but also on operations.
They also recommended that Piñol use the legally mandated Agri-Fisheries Council (AFCs) as the main DA advisory body. The AFA leaders could serve Piñol best with a critical collaboration approach. This means supporting him in all his commendable actions, but opposing the DA bureaucracy when it will not follow his vision and direction.
After these meetings, one thing became clear. With his humble listening and deep-seated desire to bring about significant change, Piñol appears to be fully committed to form the strategic partnerships necessary in both government and the private sector to bring prosperity to agriculture and our rural poor.
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, email [email protected] or telefax 8522112.
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