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Agriculture agency head denies rift with food czar

/ 05:53 PM August 13, 2014


Video by Noy Morcoso/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday denied having any rift with appointed food czar former Senator Francis Pangilinan, who was appointed by the President to clean up the graft-ridden agency.

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During the budget hearing of the Department of Agriculture in the House of Representatives, Alcala said he continues to work with Pangilinan to help uplift the welfare of farmers.

He also said he does not feel like President Aquino lost his faith in him when Pangilinan was appointed as a de facto agriculture chief.

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“Has the President lost faith in what the Secretary can accomplish? How can you live together (with Pangilinan) when there are two people doing the same functions?” Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said.

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that… It’s better for two carabaos to help farmers than one carabao,” Alcala said in Filipino.

Another militant lawmaker scored Alcala over the appointment of Pangilinan. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the President seemed to have lost faith in Alcala when four agencies originally under DA were transferred to Pangilinan as Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.

These are the National Irrigation Administration, National Food Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.

“Most duties of the agriculture secretary were removed from you… If one of the two carabaos isn’t doing his job anymore, he may no longer be effective and he may need to be replaced with a new carabao,” Zarate said in Filipino.

But Alcala said the President has not made him feel like Aquino has lost trust in him.

He added that should the President say he has lost trust in Alcala, the beleaguered agriculture chief said he would gladly step down.

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“If I’m not trusted by the President anymore, I’d gladly take my rest,” Alcala said in Filipino.

He added that he has achieved breakthroughs as agriculture chief – among them, the highest palay yield to date in 2013, and the highest fertilization and replanting rate under the PCA.

Alcala also said he is the first agriculture chief to go around the entire country in meeting the local farmers.

“Hindi naman sa nagbubuhat ng bangko, but I think I’ve done my share in the service,” he said.

Zarate refuted Alcala’s claims, saying: “He claimed he has been effective and yet the PCA was removed from him.”

“Siguro kahit isang ahensya na lang matira sa inyo, ipagpapatuloy niyo pa rin,” Zarate said.

Alcala received flak for being tagged in the alleged pork barrel scam, through which mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ foundations purportedly connived with DA-attached agencies in spending public funds to ghost projects for kickbacks.

The Cabinet official is facing five plunder complaints before the Ombudsman over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam as well as over purported overpriced rice importation deals.

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TAGS: Conflict, Department of Agriculture, food czar, Francis Pangilinan, News, Proceso Alcala
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