Duterte confirms Piñol reassignment
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed late on Friday that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol would become presidential point man in the newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He made the announcement during the inauguration of the Chen Yi Agventures Rice Processing Center in Leyte on Friday, but did not say who would replace Piñol at the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Wanted: point man
“Secretary Piñol will be leaving the agriculture department because we have created the BARMM, a new political entity. I’d like a point man there with the likes of Secretary Piñol,” he said.
The President said he wanted to speed up the devolution of all national government agencies because he found the process too slow.
“I’m not saying it’s not moving but they are so slow that I really need a point man with the likes of Secretary Piñol,” the President explained.
While the President did not specify Piñol’s new position, the latter requested in the resignation letter he submitted last week that he be named to the Mindanao Development Authority, the lead agency in development efforts in Mindanao.
Piñol said the DA is already crafting a 10-year agriculture master plan for the BARMM which is expected to be completed before the end of August.
Piñol said on his Facebook page that the master plan will involve the suggestions of 300 residents and would focus on increasing the productivity of the agriculture and fisheries sectors, identifying critical infrastructure, addressing chronic poverty, facilitating the titling of lands to end clan wars, and ensuring that the region would be self-reliant in food.
“The BARMM has one of the highest poverty incidence among the regions of the country despite the fact that the region possesses vast resources like Lake Lanao, Liguasan Marsh and the vast fishing grounds teeming with fish,” Piñol said.
The BARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Maguindanao, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Cotabato, Piñol’s home province which he served in various political capacities before being named agriculture chief.
“With its rich volcanic soil and the distinction of being typhoon-free, the DA is eyeing the BARMM as a prospective food and fisheries production area for the country,” he said.
Piñol said the Italian government has already expressed interest in funding various programs in the region, including the “development of the farming and fishing sectors, the financing and construction of rural road networks, and the dredging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao … which could address the perennial flooding in Central Mindanao.”
Italy’s Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano met with Piñol and expressed the Italian government’s willingness to invest some of its $175 million portfolio in the Philippines. —With a report from Joey Gabieta