Retaining DA chief will be next admin’s ‘biggest mistake’ – Sotto
MANILA, Philippines — The next administration would commit its “biggest mistake” if it would let the current Department of Agriculture (DA) leadership continue beyond its present term, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.
Sotto gave the warning on Tuesday as his Senate Committee of the Whole resumed its investigation into the smuggling of agricultural products in the country to the detriment of local farmers and producers.
“That will be the biggest mistake of the next administration. I was hoping that there is a light at the end of the tunnel — May 9, 2022 — because when June 30 comes they will be gone, unless the electorate makes the mistake of making it ‘to be continued’,” Sotto said, speaking in a mix of English and Filipino.
Before this, Elias Inciong, the president of the United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA), pointed to a recent DA press release wherein Agriculture Secretary William Dar expressed his willingness “to contribute to agri-fishery solutions to ensure stability in the next administration.”
“He has issued an open application to all the presidential candidates that he is still available to serve beyond the present term,” Inciong told senators.
“We are in a very difficult situation when your secretary of agriculture is someone like Secretary Dar,” he added.
In an ambush interview after the hearing, Sotto was also asked if President Rodrigo Duterte should fire Dar.
“If that’s how things are going, why not?” Sotto answered.
“What use will he be to you if all the stakeholders of agriculture in the Philippines have a quarrel with him? His only allies are the importers. I should think that situation has reached the president,” he added.
The Dar-led agriculture department has received widespread criticisms over its importation policies.
INQUIRER.net reached out to Dar for comment on Sotto and Inciong’s statements but it has not received a response as of this writing.
Earlier, Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson called out Dar’s continued absence in the Senate’s agricultural smuggling investigation.
In an April 7 letter to the Senate, Dar said he could not participate in Tuesday’s hearing due to other official engagements that he had to attend to.
“For me, I think let’s give him a chance to explain his side because he made a promise through [Agriculture] Asec. [Federico] Laciste that he is willing to attend the hearing, week after next,” Lacson said.
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