Sweeping—but most welcome—changes at the DA | Inquirer Business

Sweeping—but most welcome—changes at the DA

Will the new Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel, Jr. succeed in achieving his goal of a transformed agriculture?

To do so, he must address the opportunity—or obstacle, depending on how you see it—that lies between him and his goal: the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The DA certainly has many good points, but there is still much to be done.


Last Jan. 5, true to his pronouncement that he would significantly involve the private sector in governance, Laurel met with the leaders of the legislated public-private Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF). They are the 16 elected private sector chairs of the regional agriculture and fisheries councils and 13 elected chairs of the strategic sectoral committees handling rice, corn, coconut, climate change, mechanization and international trade, among others. Laurel listened intently to their recommendations and acted decisively on each of them.


Corruption. The Commission on Audit had earlier reported unliquidated and unexplained expenses in the DA budget amounting to P22 billion to P24 billion each in the last three years. At any given point, it’s a scandalous one-third of the total budget of less than P70 billion.

This could easily have been prevented had the DA responded to the Alyansa Agrikultura recommendation, approved unanimously by PCAF, to restore the efficient (and proven successful) private sector monitoring.

The DA regional directors would give the complete list of projects to the private sector-led regional agriculture and fisheries councils for performance and budget monitoring. This would ensure transparency and accountability.

The good news? Laurel announced that he had ordered this practice restored immediately.

Participation. In the past, PCAF committees would formulate quarterly recommendations for the Secretary to consider. However, these recommendations were merely forwarded to the Secretary sans any interaction with the committee chairs. The Secretary’s response was delivered only in writing. Consequently, the average approval rate was just 30 percent for the past three years.

Laurel is now committing to meeting the chairs personally on a quarterly basis. It is expected that more private sector recommendations will now be implemented.


Information system. Establishing a credible market information and intelligence system, as provided under the 27-year-old Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, was also brought up. It was the most important recommendation agreed upon by the PCAF leaders in their year-end national conference held last Nov. 21 to Nov. 23.

Laurel had earlier identified information as a sorely missing element in decision-making at the DA. He said he was already looking at global best practices and would implement this information system as a top priority.

Management action. Laurel has also instituted several significant changes. He has installed CCTVs in different DA offices where there were hardly any before. He changed a large part of the security force. He has supported high-level government presentation at PCAF meetings so that there would be immediate action.

At a recent PCAF international trade committee meeting, there were three undersecretaries and two undersecretaries from the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry. They agreed with the private sector recommendation that agriculture leaders should be funded to officially join government delegations in international negotiations abroad.

Laurel also empowered the PCAF committee chairs, saying that they should have in-depth meetings with their counterpart DA directors on a regular basis. He also replaced nonperforming and questionable DA officials, responding to valid private sector reports that had previously remained unheeded.

After an extensive private sector consultation nationwide, Laurel said he would soon announce the department’s 10-point agenda and a significant reorganization. With a transformational Agriculture Secretary and an improved DA, a brighter agriculture lies in front of us.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

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 [email protected]

TAGS: agriwatch, Department of Agriculture

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.