Dar confirmed as agriculture chief

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    AFTER being grilled for more than three hours on the problems facing the agriculture sector, William Dar was unanimously confirmed yesterday as the agriculture secretary.

    Dar, a former director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Tropics who also served agriculture secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, was appointed to the post last August vice Manny Pinol.

    During the hearing, Dar was quizzed about the effects of the Rice Tarrification Law, how to raise the income of farmers and the government move to import round scad or galunggong.

    Sen. Francis Tolentino called out the DA for allowing the importation of 45,000 metric tons of galunggong despite earlier assurance of sufficient supply.

    “ Exactly 34 days ago, you told us during the budget hearing that we have sufficient supply of round scad or galunggong but why is it that we are now importing it,” Tolentino asked Dar.

    Tolentino also pointed out that despite the importation, the prices of galunggong in the market remain high.

    He said that prior to the importation the retail price of galunggong was P220 per kilo. After the importation, the price skyrocketed to P320 per kilo.

    Dar said the importation was made based on the recommendation of stakeholders within the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

    “It was done (importation) due to the tightness of supply as we come toward the last quarter of the year,” Dar said.

    He also said the volume of importation this year actually went down compared to the 120,000 to 150,000 metric tons of pelagic fish, which includes galunggong, being imported.

    He assured the lawmakers that he is pro-farmer, adding the DA will always look for measures on how to improve their lives.

    He also thanked the committee for approving his appointment.

    Before the plenary session that was presided over by Senate President and CA chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, the committee’s panel on agriculture recommended Dar’s confirmation as the new agriculture chief.

    Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Almario, a CA member, initially moved for the confirmation of Dar although the actual recommendation for the confirmation came from administration Sen. Christopher Bong Go, who told the CA panel on agriculture that President Duterte expects too much from the agriculture chief.

    The recommendation was then transmitted for approval at the plenary.

    At the plenary, Rep Florencio Noel, the chair of the committee on agriculture, moved for Dar’s confirmation, saying he is “an action man who is determined to elevate the agriculture sector with his new thinking approach that will help establish a food-secure Philippines.”