CA defers Piñol's appointment to next year

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing on Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol's appointment was deferred to next year after one of the panel members raised a couple of issues.

CA member and Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato on Tuesday, December 13, moved to defer Piñol's confirmation due to his "unclear" policies.

Sato told House and Senate members during the CA hearing that Piñol did not give concrete plans and programs during their congressional hearing on Monday, December 12, when asked about ways to "soften the impact of limiting the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice."

The QR or importation quota is set to expire in June 2017. Piñol earlier said he wants to extend it but National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia opposes this.

During Tuesday's CA hearing, Piñol reiterated that the DA's position is to extend the QR after consulting with farmers nationwide who, he said, were asking for a two-year extension.

"During my appearance in Congress, I was honest to say that while I am for the extension, chances are I might not win in the discussions in the Cabinet economic cluster simply because this is already the 3rd extension and we have a short period to prepare for the request of extension," said the agriculture secretary.

Granted this, he said the only measures they can resort to is push for amending the tariff law and provide aid to farmers, which would hopefully make them more competitive.

Return to DA

Aside from the discussion on the importation quota, Sato also pointed out the planned transfer of agricultural bureaus such as the "National Irrigation Administration, the National Food Authority, the Philippine Coconut Authority, and one more agency" back to DA from the Office of the President. 

During the time of former president Benigno Aquino III, these DA attached agencies became supervised by Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan. The agencies were separately clustered to enhance their coordination.

Piñol earlier said he wants these offices to be returned under the DA's watch, which he said President Rodrigo Duterte also approves of. Duterte has yet to issue an executive order on the matter.

Sato, meanwhile, said, "We asked him what are his plans and programs and he answered that he did not want to appear presumptuous because these agencies are not yet officially transferred to his department."

Pangilinan, now a senator, defended the transfer of the DA attached agencies to his supervision during the previous administration.

"There was a 3.5% of growth in the agriculture sector in the first quarter because these agencies were given attention. Coordination is critical and it was not a perfect setup [but] I think in the end, the numbers would show," said Pangilinan.

On a lighter note, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri pointed out that Piñol is set to celebrate his birthday on Friday, December 16, eliciting laughter from those in the hall.

"I don't know if the timing is right but I just want to greet [the] secretary a happy birthday. His birthday is on Friday," said Zubiri, who also hails from Mindanao like Piñol.

Sato's motion to defer Piñol's appointment was approved after it was seconded by Manila 6th District Representative Rosenda Ocampo. Another hearing will be set next year. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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