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First 100 days

Important initiatives left unfinished by the past administration must be part of the new administration’s priorities in its first 100 days. These are often forgotten in the excitement that comes with formulating new policies and programs.

There are three such initiatives we will identify here. These were part of the six priority areas presented by the five-coalition Agrifisheries Alliance (AA) to then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte in April 2016. He approved them in principle, then later given the go-signal by Agriculture Secretary Manuel Piñol and successor William Dar. Unfortunately, they have not been completed.

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Road maps: The first initiative is knowing what to do (effectiveness). For the Department of Agriculture (DA), this is indicated by road maps. Before the Duterte administration, the few existing road maps were more like surveys and had no common outline. When AA recommended a specific outline to Dar, he approved it. To his credit and for the first time, there are now credible agriculture road maps.

What must be completed by the administration of President Marcos in his first 100 days in office is a missing critical element for road map success: public-private implementation teams. They will ensure responsibility and accountability for producing results. Otherwise, all the good work may suffer the same fate as previous road maps and end up useless and just sitting on a shelf.

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Management system: The next requirement is knowing how best to do what has to be done (efficiency). This is indicated by management systems. While there has been success in improving DA procedures, the inconsistency in service delivery can be solved by a system such as the ISO 9000.

While some government agencies have already adopted this (for example, the Department of Trade and Industry, or the DTI, had fully implemented this within three years more than 25 years ago), the DA has less than half of its major units implementing this to date.

ISO 9000 helps ensure quality and acts as an automatic self-monitoring mechanism against corruption. If a strong directive is given to complete this management system implementation in all major units of the DA, it will significantly improve the efficiency we need.

International trade: There was a major setback in our country’s positioning when the international trade committee of the public-private Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries was first abolished. Now that this committee has been restored, it should be strengthened with more expert private sector participation.

An immediate task is to protect farmers, fisherfolk and agriculture stakeholders from a likely spike in illegal and unfair imports if we are to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

If the advantages for the industry and service sectors outweigh the disadvantages for the agriculture sector, they may implement RCEP. However, the government must ensure that our farmers are protected by implementing antismuggling measures, such as the restoration of a public-private oversight committee that has already been proven successful in the past.

The country should also copy the Vietnam example by identifying threats against and implementing corresponding actions for our most vulnerable subsectors. This has not yet been done. To be fair to our agriculture stakeholders who were deprived of participation in the trade negotiations, conditions such as the above should be implemented within the next three months before RCEP is ratified.

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Let the unfinished work from the last 100 days guide the new administration’s plan for the next 100 days. This will provide continuity, by building on past achievements to reach the agriculture transformation that we badly need.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the DA and the DTI. Contact is [email protected]

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TAGS: Department of Agriculture, New administration
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