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2 heads not good for agri sector–Drilon

/ 06:07 AM August 20, 2014
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Senate President Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, Philippines–Two heads are not always better than one.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Tuesday questioned the wisdom of having two men on top of agriculture in the government in the persons of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Presidential Food Security Adviser Francis Pangilinan.

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At Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget, Drilon said the setup may have contributed to the less-than-stellar performance of the agriculture sector, which has “slowed down tremendously,” posting 0.9-percent growth in the first quarter of this year.

In a later interview, Drilon said he “strongly suggests” that this setup be reviewed.

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The agriculture sector contributes 11 percent to the economy.

At the hearing, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Arsenio Balisacan attributed the dismal performance of the agriculture sector to the spate of natural disasters that hit the country in the last quarter of 2013, particularly Super Typhoon “Yolanda” and the coconut tree pest.

But Balisacan said agriculture was expected to grow by 2 or 3 percent this year.

Drilon said the agriculture sector’s performance contributed to the increase in rice prices due to a dearth in supplies.

“Our agriculture sector has this dismal performance notwithstanding the fact that we have two agriculture secretaries, isn’t that right?” Drilon said. “We have two agriculture secretaries, one is Secretary Alcala and one is Secretary Pangilinan,”

“The moment you have two heads of a single department, how are you supposed to manage your shop well?” he said.

Budget issue

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Sen. Francis Escudero also believes the agriculture sector should not have two leaders, surmising too that this was the reason for its poor performance.

Escudero said he would raise the issue in future budget hearings and see if there was a need for the President to choose one agriculture chief over the other.

“Even God, as far as I know, did not create an animal with two heads,” he said.

He said a division of labor was a good thing so long as it was clear who was the leader and who was the subordinate. But in this case, he said, it appeared the two officials were on equal footing.

“The command structure at the Department of Agriculture should be clarified,” Escudero added.

Clearing up

Drilon said the setup posed another problem because it was the agriculture secretary who was supposed to head the board of directors of the agencies attached to the DA, but it was Pangilinan who was doing that.

Pangilinan, who was named a presidential adviser by Aquino in May, oversees four DA-attached agencies—the National Food Authority, National Irrigation Administration, Philippine Coconut Authority and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.

He has said that part of his job is to clean up the agencies by battling corruption and smuggling.

At the very least, having two heads for agriculture does not inspire confidence in the sector, Drilon said.

“This may just be one of the reasons, but certainly this does not add to the confidence on the contributions of our agriculture sector,” he said.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Francis Pangilinan, Government offices and Agencies, Proceso Alcala
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