EDITORIAL: Scandals deeply implanted in DA
In order not to end up disenchanted, there is a need to temper expectations from duly constituted personalities particularly the soon to assume President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. of the agriculture portfolio.
The outgoing Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s explanation for the failure of his agency that want of fund is the primary cause for the miserable failure of his department is a very lame excuse. Outside of its being oversized, the agricultural agency is also haunted by irregularities deeply embedded in the department, which has long been in existence for decades.
Be that as it may, unless President Marcos Jr. does not know what he is talking about, he is in for a major test of his leadership competence. It seems he has bitten more than what he could chew. But if indeed he is serious with his pronouncements, he deserves to be wished all the best of lucks in the world.
Even during the time of his late dictator father, the then Ministry of Agriculture was already pestered with irregularities ranging from Masagana 99, Samahang Limahan, Coconut Levy and even animal dispersal. Also to be included is the very adverse effects of the introduction in the Philippines for culturing purposes of the so called “golden kuhol,” which then used to be trumpeted as a major project for food production.
It is well recalled that after then Agriculture Minister Arturo Tanco Jr. introduced the stuff, many scrambled to secure some pieces of the rare variety of snail and even took pride in concocting menus of foods using the golden kuhol as a major ingredient. The Department of Education then even launched contests among teachers who were guaranteed prices for winning in the golden kuhol inspired foods.
It turned out however that what was supposed to be a boon was actually a bane. The farmers were duped because eventually the snail turned out to be as a serious threat to farmers and much later on, those behind introducing it as a food staple were also behind the manufacture of a pesticide specifically targeting the control of the rapid spread of a very serious headache to palay farmers.
Prominent characters within the villages proudly paraded themselves for being part of samahang limahan, a hog dispersal project during Martial Law, which ended up leaving nothing but indebtedness to the overly excited participants.
Some of the pigs being transported to Metro Manila for sale at the food terminal either died or became malnourished along the way from the provinces to Metro Manila as a consequence of which many participants failed to pay their indebtedness.
It may be painful to repeat over and over again but the truth cannot be revised. It must be told that at one point in time many of the end consumers of the rice staple found it very difficult to buy a “ganta” of rice. That is why they had to resort to mixing rice with yellow corn which used to be food for animals. That was also the time when bulgur became a food of last recourse. It will be a matter of months when a repeat is possible.
Mr. Marcos has to face the reality that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) mess is systematic. It has also treated like spoiled brats, technocrats who learned the trade of willing and dealing with the powers that be and influence peddlers.
The scandal becomes more rampant with the participation of the local political leaders who demand prominent role in choosing the recipients. Of late, several parties involved in food smuggling have been named.
For a starter, concerns about the fishing industry need to be handled by a separate department. DA is overloaded with various activities thereby rendering it thinly spread to the point of inutility.