FACES OF THE NEWS: Aug. 11, 2019
After a brief stint as acting agriculture secretary during the Estrada administration, distinguished horticulturist Dr. William Dar is back at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.
His appointment came as a surprise after President Rodrigo Duterte said he was inclined to pick a former general following the resignation of Emmanuel Piñol.
But Dar is actually a general in his own right after serving as director general of India-based research institute International Crops Research for the Semi-Arid Tropics.
Economic managers are banking on Dar’s expertise and background to revive the anemic agri sector, which contracted by 0.24 percent during the first semester of the year.
Dar is making his comeback count by ensuring that during his term, increase in farm production and profit will go hand in hand.
To address the lack of water in some agricultural areas, Dar plans to construct irrigation systems for a million hectares. To do this, the new agriculture chief is proposing to tap the private sector through investments under the BOT (build-operate-transfer) scheme.
But first, a year-round water supply must be assured in rural areas for the additional irrigation systems to work, Dar said.
Because economic managers blamed the dismal second-quarter gross domestic product growth of 5.5 percent to the delayed passage of the P3.7-trillion 2019 national budget, new acting Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado must zealously defend the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 appropriations approved by the President from the usual “pork” insertions that legislators lobby for.
It would probably help that Avisado is a Davao native, just like House appropriations chair Isidro Ungab, whose powerful committee will first scrutinize the budget.
Prior to his current post, Avisado had been presidential assistant overseeing rehabilitation in areas flattened by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), and was Davao City administrator from 2004 to 2010, serving none other than then mayor, now President, Rodrigo Duterte.
While former budget chief Benjamin Diokno moved to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas early this year, Avisado was from another “BSP” — the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, where he’s still an active member.
He had also held various posts in regional scouting organizations. Under Avisado’s watch, the Department of Budget and Management will submit the 2020 budget proposal ahead of the Aug. 21 deadline.
The weary metro commuter
It’s hard to imagine a worse Edsa than its present version: 380,000 vehicles jockeying for space within the 25-kilometer highway, and moving at a sluggish 19 km per hour.
Most Metro Manila commuters had resigned themselves to this aggravation — until Monday, when the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) began to strictly enforce the yellow lane policy for all buses in Metro Manila.
While only city buses are required to use the two outermost lanes on Edsa, MMDA enforcers forced even provincial and point-to-point buses in the two lanes and barred them from the flyovers and tunnels.
A viral snapshot of hundreds of buses stuck within two lanes while a single car breezed through Edsa further angered the public, who decried the policy as “antipoor” and “anticommuter.”
Karlo Mercado, who took the image, said the policy reeked of an “apparent bias for car owners, whether intentional or not.”
The backlash forced the MMDA to again allow provincial and P2P buses to traverse the Santolan flyover.
But MMDA traffic czar Bong Nebrija maintained that they were “not holding commuters hostage.”
What else was there to do, he asked, when the public keeps rejecting their ideas?
Renowned plant geneticist and former University of the Philippines (UP) president Dr. Emil Javier has been named the country’s newest National Scientist.
In Proclamation No. 781, President Duterte conferred the rank and title of National Scientist on the 78-year-old Santa Cruz, Laguna province, native in recognition of his “outstanding contributions to the progress of science and technology in the Philippines and the world.”
Javier was feted for promoting “sound agricultural policies and programs, massive utilization of climate-resilient and environment-friendly agricultural innovations, and improved governance and management systems to help improve the livelihood of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.”
Javier served as UP president from 1993 to 1999, and as chancellor of UP Los Baños from 1979 to 1985.
He received the Ten Outstanding Young Men award for agriculture in 1975, around the time that he led the creation of the Institute of Plant Breeding that popularized high-yielding crops and disease-resistant varieties.
As a National Scientist, Javier will receive a medallion and citation, a financial gratuity, a monthly life pension, medical benefits, a state funeral and a place of honor at national state functions.
What’s with all the stealth? For weeks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been hounding China with this question, after observing People’s Liberation Army-Navy warships passing through Philippine waters with their automatic identification system turned off.
This time, two Chinese survey ships — Zhang Jian and Dong Fang Hong 3 — apparently doing marine research, were spotted in the waters of Samar and Ilocos Norte, respectively.
The Philippine government only received from China post factum confirmation when protocol dictates prior information.
Lorenzana has again asked the foreign secretary to file a diplomatic protest for the unannounced “innocent passage” of the survey ships, saying it was necessary to seek an explanation to “allay the fear” of all parties in the South China Sea dispute.
Lorenzana clarified that China would not need permission for commercial shipping, but that Beijing needs to inform Manila if their warships were to pass through Philippine waters.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier told reporters that a few weeks ago, the Chinese aircraft carrier CV-16 Liaoning passed through Sibutu Strait, which is within the country’s territorial waters.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.