DA in PR crisis? Dar busy defending his agency vs. controversies
Agriculture Secretary William Dar has his hands full at the moment. While doing his usual job at the Department of Agriculture (DA), he’s also busy defending his agency from several controversies — from importation issues threatening the rice and poultry industry to allegedly overpriced fertilizer brought by the DA.
Dar, for several weeks now, maintained that DA is innocent of any wrongdoing and that its decisions, especially those related to importation, are not totally baseless.
Regarding the importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice, which a farmers’ group thought was illegal and has no basis, Dar said it was proposed to ensure the country will not run out of the staple during the lean months.
As for DA’s decision not to suspend the importation of poultry products, despite the overflowing supply of locally produced chicken, he said the country has trade commitments to fulfill.
Meanwhile, regarding the allegedly overpriced fertilizers procured by DA, Dar repeatedly said that they were bought by DA following the proper bid protocols and that they set the right bid prices.
However, various farmers’ groups and civil society organizations think the DA is not at all being transparent.
The groups also slammed the lack of consultations under the administration of Dar.
According to Ruperto Aleroza, National Chair of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), the legally mandated arm of the Department of Agriculture enabling transparency within its operations, has not been holding regular consultations at the national level.
The consultations would have been the proper venue to discuss various issues faced by the agency, including trade issues and other agriculture and fishery policies, programs and budgets.
Aleroza revealed that early this year, PCAF’s budget was cut by around 50 percent.
“Secretary Dar has yet to explain to us his agriculture and fisheries constituency why he has let this happen,” he said.
Dhon Daganasol, a farmer leader of KATARUNGAN, said that this is the result of a really bad policy and that private sector and CSO engagement are now at a loss where to legitimately raise their immediate concerns regarding DA’s decision.
“Instead of curtailing PCAF, we call on the DA to strengthen this participatory body and initiate broader participation of various farmers and rural based organizations in monitoring agriculture and fisheries projects including the Rice Competitiveness Fund and the COVID Stimulus Fund at all levels,” Daganasol said.