A ‘shadow’ government in the DA

A ‘shadow’ government in the DA

To transform the agriculture sector, it is necessary to also transform the structures supporting it.

Thankfully, changes are now ongoing under the current leadership. We discuss here one such structure: the public-private Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF).

According to Executive Order No. 116-1987, the PCAF “acts as an advisory body to the [Department of Agriculture, or DA] to ensure the success of its programs and activity.” It is composed of 16 regional agriculture and fisheries councils (RAFCs) and 11 sectoral committees (SCs). The SCs address key subjects such as crops (e.g., rice), policies (e.g., international trade), and programs (e.g., mechanization).


The past

Under the previous administration, some private sector members made recommendations different from the existing policies and positions of the DA. But instead of strengthening the PCAF, these only made the latter weak and damaged.


For example, the PCAF operating budget was cut in half. The international trade committee was abolished. Private sector monitoring of the DA budget was terminated.

READ: Sweeping—but most welcome—changes at the DA

Also, the election of committee heads by members was conditioned on the requirement that a list of three nominees would have to be given to the agriculture secretary before a chair was chosen.

There was one instance when a committee nominated only one person in four separate meetings but in the end the person was relegated to a temporary position only because three candidates’ names were not submitted.

These issues are now being addressed. Take, for example, the private sector monitoring of the DA budget, which was announced only last Jan. 5 by newly installed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. This will help ensure that one-third of the DA budget is not lost to corruption and waste.

Shadow government

In parliaments abroad, there is a “shadow government” made up of the opposition party that keeps watch over the government’s key ministers. In one such parliament, the “shadow” for each minister was an individual from the private sector. His or her primary function was to ensure monitoring and make recommendations.


This same idea was used in suggesting a structural change for the SCs, specifically in four areas: their new role definition, roadmap implementation, budget formulation, and budget use.

Regarding their role, the SC heads should not just generally follow the PCAF Secretariat initiatives and focus on quarterly committee meetings.

Instead, they should engage their government counterparts at least once a month to monitor progress and take appropriate action. As active partners of the DA, they should partly be responsible for the successes and failures of their respective organization sectors.

On roadmap implementation, they should help establish public-private implementation teams. They will cochair these teams so that the roadmaps are actively used and not just lying idle on the shelf. They should meet quarterly, focusing on implementing short-term plans and plucking low-lying fruits.


For budget use, they should monitor how the budget is being implemented in their respective sectors. They should require submission of the respective sector budgets to the private sector-led RAFCs for monitoring to prevent questionable expenses that we have seen in the last three years. They should also have to insist on penalties against erring officials.

For budget formulation, they should identify the priority needs of their respective sectors. They must actively recommend budget provisions to address those needs. They should ensure that the budget responds to the unique needs of their respective sectors (this has recently started).

The PCAF is full of very competent and committed people. But the agency’s structure should be addressed to maximize their potential.

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As we try to transform agriculture, we must also transform its structures. We should support the current DA leadership in accelerating its pace before other powerful forces can derail it.

TAGS: Commentary, Department of Agriculture

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