Incoming Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has lots of bright ideas to help turn around the moribund agriculture business in the Philippines. Piñol is in the United States this week to explore possibilities of acquiring farm machineries on long term loans to maximize rice production.
During a press conference in Irvine’s University Research Park, arranged and hosted by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Orange, Piñol disclosed that his number one priority once he assumes his post is to make sure that food will be available and affordable for all Filipinos
He also vowed to stop the rampant corruption in the Department of Agriculture to ensure that government funds intended for farm workers will not be pocketed by corrupt officials and employees in the department.
Piñol told members of the Fil-Am Chamber that among other things he also intends to develop the country’s fisheries, and aquatic resources, and make the Philippines rice-sufficient and to revive the once flourishing copra and abaca industries.
He said he would encourage farm workers, with ample government support and funding, to maximize farm production. The Philippines has a total agricultural land area of 13 million hectares. In spite of this vast land area, however, the country sadly and shamefully continues to import rice from other countries to meet the growing demand of its expanding population. It will be recalled that when President Benigno Aquino became president, he promised to make Philippines self-sufficient. Well, that has yet to happen.
Piñol said he would look into the dying abaca and copra business in the country. He said it is also sad that although we have the largest coconut plantation in the world, the country’s copra export business is on the brink of being extinct.
He said the same can be said of the abaca industry in the Philippines. Piñol told his audience that the Philippines is one of only two countries in the world that export abaca. The other country, he said, is Ecuador.
Piñol was loudly applauded by his audience when he gave assurance and swore that he will not be corrupted by anyone in his desire to help farmers and fishermen improve their lives as well as to help the country become rice sufficient in the future.
I know Piñol will make good on his promise to change the current system in the Department of Agriculture. In my long years of working with Piñol at the Manila Bulletin as beat reporters, I found him to be an honest and down-to-earth person with a big heart, ready to help anyone who needs assistance.
Good luck Manny or should I now say Secretary Piñol.
Millions of Filipinos are now waiting and watching if President elect Digong Duterte will deliver his promise of change and hope for all Filipinos for a better Philippines in the years to come. Piñol’s choice, in my opinion, is a welcome start.