Marcos takes agri post, vows to reorganize DA | Inquirer News

Marcos takes agri post, vows to reorganize DA

President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. STORY: Marcos takes agri post, vows to reorganize DA

President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (Image from BBM Media)

MANILA, Philippines — Emphasizing that the country’s problems in agriculture were “severe enough,” President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday announced that he would take on the role of agriculture secretary when he assumes office on June 30.

At a press briefing late Monday afternoon at his national campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Marcos said: “I have decided to take on the portfolio of secretary of agriculture, at least for now and at least until we can reorganize the Department of Agriculture (DA) in a way that will make it ready for the next years to come.”

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He pointed out that there were offices in the DA that were underutilized and needed to be “retooled” postpandemic.

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“We’re going back to basics… and we will rebuild the value chain of agriculture,” Marcos said.

“That is why I thought that it is important that the president take that portfolio to not only make it clear to everyone what a high priority we put on the agricultural sector but also as a practical matter so that things move quickly because the events of the global economy are moving very quickly,” he said.

“We have to be able to be agile. We have to be able to respond properly in a measured way as soon as there’s a situation that needs to be addressed,” he added.

As agriculture secretary, Marcos said he would try to increase food production, and “hopefully, we can counteract some of the increases in prices.”

“The other priority, which is equally important, although it is a long-term process, is the restructuring of the DA. As I have mentioned many times before, many of the agencies have changed their functions over the years and maybe it’s time to return them (to their original functions),” he said.

Marcos said he had to restructure the department to make it “more responsive to the local situation now when it comes to food supply.”

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Welcome development

Industry stakeholders lauded the incoming president’s decision to head the DA in the early part of his term.

Marcos will be succeeding William Dar, who headed the agency for three years.

“We will submit and support the decision of [Marcos],” Dar said in a text message.

For various agriculture groups, this is a welcome development the sector needs as its growth has been severely hit by the pandemic, the African swine fever and several typhoons.

“Hopefully, things will move fast. Dar buried us in a very deep grave in terms of food security,” Elias Jose Inciong, president of the United Broiler Raisers Association, said in a Viber message.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said this was “a most welcome development,” noting the “scale of destruction of the local agriculture sector in the last three years.”

“We believe that only the president can jump-start the gargantuan task of rehabilitating local agriculture from the carnage created by those at the helm of the DA these past years,” said Jayson Cainglet, Sinag executive director, in a statement.

Chester Warren Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., also considers this a “good development.”

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said this would be a chance for Marcos to help both farmers and micro, small and medium enterprises that are part of the vital sector.

Marcos’ father and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., had initiated various agricultural programs during his time, including the Masagana 99, the Food Terminal Inc., and the Kadiwa stores, which Concepcion said the younger Marcos could revisit and revive to benefit the entire sector.

Preparations

“President-elect Marcos told us at our Kandidatalks series during the campaign season that he felt the pandemic exposed the weaknesses not just of our agriculture sector, but our whole food supply chain,” he said.

“We hope, with the reforms he will implement, we will become more resilient and able to withstand future disruptions in our food supply system, such as that we experienced during the lockdowns and now with the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” Concepcion added.

However, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas rejected the incoming president’s decision, claiming this would only worsen hunger and “further exposes the unpreparedness of his coming administration.”

Prior to his announcement of his decision to take on the DA portfolio when he assumes the presidency, Marcos cited the expected surge in food costs and the possible impact of the high cost of oil products on the country’s food supply.

He noted that the Philippines has been able to adjust in the last few weeks.

“But these emergency measures that we have taken will not be sufficient [in] the long run. That’s why we have to plan in a more thorough fashion than just responding,” he said.

Marcos tasked his incoming secretaries for the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget and Management to “make an economic forecast on what it is we think we’ll have to face for the rest of this year so that we can prepare.”

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