Dearth of information at the DA | Inquirer Business

Dearth of information at the DA

Without the relevant and necessary information, our agriculture industry is destined to continue its precipitous decline. Looking at the first three quarters of the last two years, we have had no agriculture growth. For 2022 and 2023, growth was only at 0.23 percent and 0.16 percent, respectively.

There is a dearth of good agriculture-related information. In 1997, the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act legally mandated the creation of a marketing information network. After more than 20 years, this aspect of the law has not been complied with.

For 2023, the information budget originally submitted by the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) was only 0.7 percent of the industry’s total budget.


When an Alyansa Agrikultura leader objected, the DA doubled the amount, albeit for a measly P10 million. Think about this if the agriculture budget is already P160 billion!


For 2024, DA-AMAS increased this to only P33 million. This shows the lack of appreciation and understanding of the critical need for good information.

But what is worse is that when this information is available, it is sometimes withheld from decision makers. In the end, corruption will always win.

A look into the 21 DA-approved agriculture subsector road maps showed a lack of market information about these subsectors. This alone already inhibits good planning.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has consistently pointed out this lack of information in other agriculture-related areas. He is now taking concrete steps to correct such deficiency.

Info gap

Two examples show the significant impact of undisclosed information.

Since the practice of providing a complete list of DA-funded projects to the regions for private sector monitoring by the Agriculture and Fisheries Councils (AFCs) was stopped, massive corruption flourished. And in the last three years, the Commission on Audit has consistently reported unliquidated and unexplained expenses in the DA amounting to one-third of its total budget.


So far, this practice has not been restored, despite being highlighted as a conditionality of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) based on a Feb. 7 document.

Another example relates to the committee against smuggling (that allowed the private sector to access import information), which successfully reduced the smuggling rate by 25 percent in the past.

Because it was too successful as it was able to catch the “big fish,” it was eventually abolished.

As expected, smuggling increased the next year by 105 percent. The restoration of this committee, also an RCEP conditionality, has also not been actualized.

Force multipliers

Last Jan. 3, Elias Jose Inciong, president of the United Broiler Raisers Association, mentioned that the military concept of “force multiplier” is applicable to our information crisis. ChatGPT states that this is “a factor that increases the effectiveness of a force or effect. It can be a technology, strategy, or any element that enhances the overall impact.”

It had already been shown that releasing the complete list of DA-funded projects for private sector monitoring decreased corruption. In addition, creative ideas from the private sector improved efficiency in the budget use.

If we now use technology, strategy and the element of community as “force multipliers,” the benefit of information will be greatly enhanced.

Using internet and technology, including social media, information on DA-funded projects will be easily accessible. Using the strategy of distributing this not only to selected AFCs but also to all affected municipalities will achieve widespread accessibility. And by using the element of community, different nongovernment organizations, such as rotary clubs and church-supported groups, can all monitor DA budget use. With the force multipliers of technology, strategy and community, the information will have the enhanced impact of influencing decisions and preventing corruption.

Our agriculture development will now have a better chance of succeeding.

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The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is agriwatch_phil@yahoo.

TAGS: Commentary, Department of Agriculture

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