Piñol, poverty and posterity | Inquirer Business

Piñol, poverty and posterity

If Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol wins his fight against poverty, his legacy will be preserved for posterity.  But if he fails because he emphasizes visible, unsustainable gains for short-term results instead of deep agriculture structural reforms, he may join the ranks of quickly forgotten politicians who have accomplished little for posterity.

In the book “Feeding Millions: The Duterte Food Security Blueprint,” it was reported that Piñol showed an impressive track record as a governor in fighting poverty: “For nine years, he advocated a market-oriented and jobs-generating governance which pulled out North Cotabato… with a poverty incidence of 52 percent, reducing it to only 29 percent when his term ended in 2007.”

Piñol is now in a position to reduce our entire country’s rural poverty rate of 40 percent. This is disturbingly worse than our Asean neighbors: Vietnam (19 percent), Indonesia and Thailand (14 percent), and Malaysia (2 percent).


First 100 days


In the first 100 days, Piñol has made commendable moves. He has spent more than two-thirds of his time traveling to different provinces to learn the problems of small farmers and fisherfolk. He documents these daily in his Facebook account (Emmanuel Piñol) and makes a weekly accounting on the DZRH program “Biyaheng Bukid” at 6 a.m. every Saturday.

Here are three of Piñol’s noteworthy achievements:

– He has taken the time to find out the real problems of the farmers so he can give the solutions they actually need. This is the opposite of centralized government decisions, which give farmers programs not relevant to their real needs.

-He addresses the critical problem of accessible credit. Today, only 2 percent of all loans in the banking sector go to agriculture. Piñol recently launched “Punla,” a loan program which grants uncollateralized loans to deserving farmers at 6 percent interest. He has provided the proper training for responsible lending. It is hoped that this program’s elements are replicated in larger loan programs by other institutions.

– He takes decisive action when he sees problems. Examples are replacing corrupt people immediately as was demonstrated in one of his provincial sorties; initiating a procedure for farmers to access long-idle farm equipment by eliminating the required down payment which farmers cannot afford,  and providing boats for selected fisherfolk who need them for livelihood and survival.

Six priorities


On Oct. 1, the five-coalition Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) met to discuss the first 100 days of agriculture governance. Not much action has been seen on the six agriculture priority areas identified by AFA. These areas were agreed upon by then presidential candidate Duterte on April 16, and committed to by Piñol on May 24. This is understandable because the first 100 days have been focused on understanding the problems of agriculture. However, the six strategic areas must now be addressed decisively in the next 100 days because time is of the essence.

First, the DA bureaucracy should be re-engineered to facilitate the completion of an agriculture sector roadmap with public-private sector implementation teams using globally-recognized management systems (e.g. ISO 9000).  The DTI has submitted 32 industry roadmaps to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies, while the DA has not submitted any.

Second, stakeholder participation must be harnessed following the AFMA law by utilizing the regional, provincial, and municipal public-private Agriculture Fisheries Council (AFCs). They should be given the necessary budget information so the private sector can recommend and monitor the effective use of the P88-billion DA budget. Since this has not been done, a significant part of the DA budget has been wasted through ineffectiveness and corruption.

Third, the agriculture extension that has been sorely missing because the 17,000 extension workers were removed from the DA and devolved to the LGUs must be strictly guided by the DA. The MOA on July 6 between the DA and LGU made this happen but it has not been accomplished.

Fourth, credit and improved crop insurance must be restructured so that wider coverage and guarantee systems will make these more accessible to small farmers and fisherfolk.

Fifth, our international agriculture trade should have a level playing field through subsidies matching those of our neighboring countries. DA must also actively address the smuggling rate that has increased from 6 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2014. Fighting agriculture smuggling is not just the work of BOC, but also a responsibility of DA.

Sixth, critical reform areas should also be addressed. Examples are providing adequate support services for agrarian reform beneficiaries; making accessible the coconut levy fund to coconut farmers after their long 45-year wait; providing necessary mechanisms for food self-sufficiency and fisherfolk welfare; and working on a water master plan.

In his first 100 days, Piñol has done the necessary work of understanding our agriculture situation and has acted swiftly on specific problems. But for posterity, Piñol must now act to address the said six priority areas.

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(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries, e- mail [email protected])

TAGS: Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, Business, economy, News, Poverty

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