The Manila Times : Dar open to serving as Marcos' agri chief

By Eireene Jairee Gomez | The Manila Times

Agriculture Secretary William Dar is willing to be the Agriculture secretary of the next administration that will likely be headed by Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

"I am offering my services to the country and the new leader. If they really consider that, then that will be good. If not, I have many things also to do," Dar said during the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Forum "Spiraling Commodity Prices: Game Plan to Survive Shocks" on Wednesday.

Dar was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Aug. 5, 2019 to replace Emmanuel Piñol. Dar held the same position under President Joseph Estrada from 1998 to 1999.

He also served as Presidential Advisor on Food Security (1999) and Executive Director of National Agricultural and Fishery Council (1998).

Dar has several decades of leadership and management experience from various local and international agricultural research organizations he served, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India.

Dar is also currently the President of InangLupa Movement Inc. a movement working for an inclusive, science-based, climate-smart and competitive Philippine agriculture.

Immediately upon assumption of office in August 2019, Dar faced challenges on the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law and the falling palay prices, the spread of African swine fever, among other threats to food production in the country.

In his first 100 days in office, the agri-fishery sector recorded a 2.87-percent growth performance for the third quarter of the year.

He then vowed to lead the Philippine agriculture sector towards sustainable food security and prosperous rural communities. Currently, the DA has been pushing for programs focusing on increasing farmers and fisherfolks' productivity, competitiveness and profitability.

Specifically, Dar introduced the "New Thinking" strategy in Philippine agriculture, which has four pillars namely farm consolidation, modernization, industrialization and professionalization. This entails eight key paradigms that include broad strokes on intensive crop diversification, farm clustering and inclusive agribusiness, science-based farming, soil health and water management, integrated post-harvest processing, and value chain integration.

To address global food and agriculture challenges amid the pandemic, Dar emphasized the need for higher funding for the Philippine farm and fishery sector.

"[It's] boosting productivity levels using technology and innovations. That must always be a primary objective to increase overall productivity, to further improve sufficiency levels. We also have to look at the affordability of the goods that we produce," he explained.

"[It's] managing inflation through food mobilization from surplus provinces to areas that are lacking in food. It has to be priming productivity plus managing food inflation," the Agriculture chief added.