January 20, 2018, 4:50 pm
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Agriculture in focus

THE Department of Agriculture under Secretary Manny Piñol, has notched concrete gains during the first year in office of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Secretary Piñol was able to report a 9-percent growth in agriculture just during the first 12 months of the Duterte administration.

Records show that the DA under President Noynoy Aquino had a negative 3 percent performance. When Piñol took over, he was able to overcome the negative points and managed to achieve a 5.8 percent increase in agricultural output. The government reports agriculture as accounting for 10 percent of GDP, but it actually is much more than that.

Recently, the House of Representatives decided to review the department’s budget allocation of P60 billion, which the lawmakers thought was way below what the DA requested, which was P220 billion.

The House decided to hold discussions on the budget with the view towards increasing it. It was a sort of recognition to the efforts made by Piñol in his department, and the overall participation of the agricultural sector in the Philippine economy.

The latest challenge for Secretary Piñol’s Department of Agriculture is the ongoing avian flu crisis in Pampanga. While confined only to two affected barangays in San Luis town, the DA and the Department of Health jointly established a 7-kilometer radius quarantine area to contain the spread of the virus.

Raisers of chickens, eggs, ducks, pigeons, roosters, etc. had to follow government guidelines, cull both the infected and uninfected birds within the containment areas, and follow the checkpoints.

Both departments have the cooperation of Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda and the mayors of the provinces, including the police and barangay officials. Quarantine and checkpoint procedures have been strict.

Piñol received the ire and criticisms of Pampanga poultry raisers, businessmen and local officials good-naturedly. He said his main concern is not the short-term financial losses, for the government will surely assist the farmers. His principal objective is to prevent the spread of the avian influenza virus, and ensure that the virus won’t be able to jump to people.

The agriculture secretary was even willing to resign his position if, through negligence, he fails in containing the spread of the virus to areas in Visayas and Mindanao.

With such an official attitude, Secretary Piñol is on the right track in rendering service to the people directly affected by the bird flu crisis, and to the nation in general.
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