Kiko: PNoy told me to clean corrupt agri agencies

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2014 08:43 PM | Updated as of May 07 2014 05:39 AM

MANILA - Former senator and now Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday said he was ordered by President Aquino to clean up the corruption in 4 agencies previously under Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

In a press conference after being sworn in, Pangilinan said "Ang sinabi ng ating Pangulo, I am here to help clean up these agencies. So iyon ang kanyang sinabi sa akin. So kasama ang pag-address dito sa mga usapin ng katiwalian at itong smuggling."

The agencies taken from the DA and placed under Pangilinan are the National Food Authority (NFA), the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Alcala has been reeling from being linked to the pork barrel scam, as well as allegations of involvement in smuggling and other forms of corruption.

The Department of Agriculture also missed its rice self-sufficiency target last year. The Aquino administration has been criticized for failing to achieve inclusive growth, especially in the country's rural areas.

Aquino himself noted the corruption in the NIA in his last State of the Nation Address.

"Sa NIA, well, I guess very public ‘yung mga issue ng ating Pangulo sa NIA so we will have to address that too in the last two years. Sa huling dalawang taon ng administrasyon ng ating Pangulo, ito ang ilan sa mga gusto niyang malutas natin," Pangilinan said.

He stopped short of saying that his appointment was an indictment of Alcala's performance.

"I wouldn't say he failed to clean up, ano. Babalikan natin iyon ating nabanggit kanina na napakalawak din kasi ng sektor ng agrikultura at pangingisda. So, he needs support and that's why we are here," he said.

Pangilinan left the doors open for him to investigate Alcala. "I think...Ang sinabi ng ating Pangulo, wala naman siyang binanggit kung sino ang isama, kung sino ang hindi isama. So, kung sino ang dapat isama, isasama. Sino man iyon, ano.”

Asked about controversies involving Alcala, Pangilinan replied, "That was not mentioned. Hindi binanggit iyong usapin 'nung nasasangkot ang ating kalihim sa ilang mga sinasabing mga kaso."

"Hindi nabanggit iyon. Hindi lang dahilan kung bakit tayo in-appoint, ano. But sa atin, the marching orders are clear: to clean it up. So we will do what we can, as best we can to help in that respect. Apart from, of course, the overall picture. Ang pinaka-kabuuang layunin natin ay paano pataasin ang antas ng kalidad ng buhay ng ating magsasaka at mangingisda," he added.

FOOD SECURITY

"Food security is -- sabi ko nga, uulitin ko, food security can only be done when you secure your farmers and your fisherfolk. So the overall program is to address that including corruption because nandoon na nga ang pondo para sa ating mga magsasaka nalulustay pa," he said.

 Pangilinan, however, dismissed talks of a revamp in the agencies."Itong bagay na ito pag-uusapan pa namin ni Secretary Procy. Although nagkausap na kami kaharap ng ating Pangulo, at maliwanag sa amin kung ano ang mga prayoridad, ‘yung mga detalye ay kailangan pa nating plantsahin. So pag-uusapan pa namin ni Sec. Procy iyung usapin ng reorganization, kung meron man. Ang sa akin, kung maaaring iwasan iyon—kung pwede, ano, given the (fact na) iilang oras na lang at iilang panahon na lang—dalawang taon na lang. Perhaps there will be some changes but hindi ko nakikita, as you say, a revamp."

Pangilinan said he and Alcala will work together.

He said Alcala retains control over other agencies under the DA. “I think the secretary is still the primary point-person. I come in… ako ay pumapasok lamang bilang taga-suporta, dagdag ng suporta at tulong sa ilang mga problema ng ahensya, problema ng sektor."

"So [itong] pagpasok po natin ay upang suportahan at tulungan ang ating kalihim para ‘yung mga layunin ng ating administrasyon at ng ating Pangulo ay matugunan sa nalalabing dalawang taon," Pangilinan said.

60 AGENCIES UNDER DA

He said there are 60 attached agencies under the DA. "So he still (has), you know, 50-plus pa. So hindi ganoon nga kalawak ang... ang sa akin, may mga problemang kailangang harapin, kailangan lutasin. Nandito tayo para tumulong. Kung maliit man ang ahensya o malaki, wala sa akin iyon."

Asked if Alcala really needs help, Pangilinan said, "Considering na nalalabi na lang itong oras natin sa administrasyon, I felt—I think the President felt the need to fast-track and to add support. So I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.Wala naman yatang problema, and ‘yun na rin ang sinabi ng ating kalihim, na malawak ang hanay at maraming sangay ang ating sektor ng agrikultura at pangingisda kaya mabuting may dagdag na tao upang sa nalalabing mga dalawang taon ay matutugunan ‘yung ilan pang mga problema."

Pangilinan also brushed aside any political angles regarding his appointment. He is a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party.

"Whether there are political implications or not, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not my concern. It’s not an issue to me," he said. "The issue here is maraming problema ang sakahan. It only grew by 1 percent last year in a universe of 7 percent. The poorest of the poor are in the agriculture sector."

He also said he is not interested in the presidency when asked if this appointment could be a vehicle for his presidential candidacy. "I am not interested in the presidency. I am interested in elections at this time. If at all, re-election but I am told that medyo mataas-taas na ako sa surveys, baka naman hindi ko na kailangan ng headache."

 Pangilinan finished his second consecutive term as senator last year. Among his achievements were investigations he led as chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture. He also took to full-time farming when he left public office.

Pangilinan wants to focus on stabilizing rice prices, addressing the needs of agricultural workers, and addressing the debts of the NFA.

RURAL POVERTY

“Alam mo 70 percent ng poverty is nasa kanayunan eh, 'di ba. So, kung talagang gusto mong tugunan ang kahirapan at ang pinakamahirap sa pinakamahirap iyong ating mangingisda. Kaya tumaas ang presyo din ng bigas ay dahil nga sa supply. Pagka humina ang suplay, tataas ang demand, tataas ang presyo, ano. Ano ang dapat nating gawin sa loob ng dalawang taon para mapababa pa ang presyo ng bigas? Ayusin ‘yung ilang mga problema sa pag-imbak or import. Look at the importation, the policy on importation, pati ‘yung usapin ng utang ng NFA. Mahigit almost P170-billion ang utang ng NFA so ano ang gagawin natin dito. Ito ang ilan sa mga hinahanapan natin ng solusyon."

 He will also look into the use of the coco levy funds and pest infestation. "Sa usapin ng Philippine Coconut Authority, ‘yung coco levy. Ano ang gagawin natin dito? Itong problema ng infestation ng peste sa industriya. Ano ba ang dapat gawin dito?"
 
"Pinakamahirap sa mga magsasaka natin, sabi nila, ay iyung coconut farmers. Ironic that more and more marami pong mga produkto galing sa niyog na ngayo’y tinatangkilik sa international markets. Pero ‘yung ating teknolohiya, ‘yung ating coconut industry ay kinakailangan pang ma-develop. We are still the leader on the exports of coconut products in the entire world but... we are losing ground to other nations, ano. So you have the coco levy as one other concern,” Pangilinan said.

On top of those, he will also look into how to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon. "Climate change sa kabuuan, at sa ngayon isang phenomenon nga itong El Niño. So immediately kinakailangan din nating alamin ano pa ang dapat gawin para maibsan itong epekto ng El Niño sa ating mga magsasaka."

Pangilinan’s return to the public sector after a year of absence came with the support of wife, actress and TV host Sharon Cuneta.

“Nangako ako sa Pangulo mula't sapol na tutulungan natin siya. Dangan nga lang nagkaroon ng ilang mga aberya nitong nakaraang taon at minabuti namin --- minabuti ko na tutukan muna ang aking pamilya. So, ngayon at...After almost a year, ano, palagay ko, nagkausap naman kami ni Sharon (Cuneta) at biro nga, sabi niya: 'Nako, dahil ikaw eh namahinga ng halos isang taon talagang alam kong mas mahal mo ako kaysa sa gobyerno.'"

He said that it was early this year when he was recruited by Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras, who is known to be one of Aquino’s troubleshooters.

“Having been chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and eventually noong ako'y bumaba sa pwesto e ako'y nag-full time vegetable farmer, so naging malapit na sa akin iyong sektor ng agrikultura. And, finally, nagkausap kami ni Secretary Rene noong TAYO Awards. Ako'y nananahimik pa noon pero pumunta sa Malacanang dahil sa TAYO Awards at nagka-usap kami habang nagseseremonya at doon nga niya nabanggit --- this was I think February or January na ang tindi ng problema ng kahirapan," Pangilinan said.

"Nandoon pa rin iyong issue 'nung inclusive growth -- na ang talagang kinakailangang puntiryahin para matugunan ang inclusive growth, ang pangunahing sektor ay ang sektor ng magsasaka at mangingisda -- ang agriculture sector,” he added.