At last, the DA moves in the right direction | Inquirer Business

At last, the DA moves in the right direction

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has shown good moves since it started its budget hearings last April 11. These should be pursued and built upon.

At one of the hearings, the idea that the consumer should be served at all costs but at the expense of a balanced view advocating both consumer welfare and agriculture development was rejected.


Imports are desirable when there is a supply gap, but not encouraged when an oversupply of unfairly cheap imports grabs the share and jobs of local production that can otherwise fulfill demand.

Rejected, too, was the unrealistic position that if tariffs are significantly decreased, the supposedly “spoiled” farmers and fisherfolk will automatically become productive in the absence of necessary support services.


Action is already being taken on two of the conditionalities recommended by the international trade committee of the public-private Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Last Feb. 21, in a historic and unprecedented move, the Senate highlighted these conditionalities in ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. If these fail, “The Senate of the Philippines may recommend to the President the withdrawal from the Agreement.”

First of the two is the restoration of the public-private oversight antismuggling committee that will meet monthly with the Bureau of Customs and report directly to the President. This same committee helped reduce smuggling twice in the past (by 25 percent and 31 percent). Two weeks ago, a high level representative reporting to the President consulted the AgriFisheries Alliance on how to best activate this committee.

Second is the restoration of the public-private committee monitoring the DA budget down to the provincial and municipal levels. This will prevent a similar instance in 2020 when the Commission on Audit discovered P22 billion in unliquidated and unexplained expenses in the P66-billion DA budget.

One week ago, an order was given to the DA regional directors to give to their respective public-private provincial and municipal agriculture and fisheries councils the complete list of projects in their respective areas. Implementing this properly will minimize waste and corruption currently existing in the absence of transparency and accountability.

Budget hearings

At the April 12 budget hearing, both Agriculture Undersecretaries Mercedita Sombilla (for policy and planning) and Agnes Miranda (for finance and administration), ably supported by planning director Dan Somera, emphasized the need for budget focus and effectiveness.

Sombilla advocated concentrating on budget items which give the greatest return, a departure from distributing resources largely on an equal basis, which the country relied on in the past.


Miranda argued for impact analysis, whereby a budget item should identify the expected outcome, thus optimizing resource distribution.

Prior to President Marcos’ instruction to significantly increase the DA budget, the share of agriculture to the total national budget was only 2 percent for the Philippines, compared to 4 percent for Thailand and 6 percent for Vietnam.

There were also two important private sector recommendations that emerged during the hearings. Both were previously identified in the 69-page document, “Towards an Effective Agri-Fisheries Multiyear Plan,” which was written by the heads of six agriculture coalitions (upon the DA’s request on Aug. 15, 2022, it would be submitted to the President).

The first is funding the market information system mandated in the 1997 Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act. The measly P10-billion budget should be significantly increased. Otherwise, we will continue our poor agriculture planning with inadequate information.

The other is to expand the currently limited Kadiwa outlets to become full-service Kadiwa mini agro-industrial centers with postharvest facilities, processing and market arrangements. This is in line with President Marcos’ March 8 announcement: “We are thinking of evolving Kadiwa, not this type of pop-ups, but to have permanent Kadiwa centers in different local government units.”

We must now build upon these and other new directions from the DA. Only then can we have the agriculture transformation we need. INQ

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