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2 agri officials resign after Pangilinan appointment

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Less than a week after the appointment of former senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, two agency heads under the Department of Agriculture (DA)  tendered their resignations.

Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Euclides Forbes and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag submitted their courtesy resignation letters to the Office of the President. 

Calayag, appointed by President Benigno Aquino III in January 2013, gave his letter on May 6 and asked that his resignation "be made effective upon the appointment of a replacement."

Forbes, appointed in January 2011, filed his resignation on May 8.

"I filed a courtesy resignation to enable the new boss to choose (a new administrator). But I'm willing to stay," Forbes told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino on Monday, May 12.

The PCA and NFA are two of the 4 agencies Pangilinan has been tasked to oversee. The other two are the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) and Food and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala lauded the resignations of Forbes and Calayag. 

Magandang action po and ginawa nila sapagkat nabibigyan nila ng pagkakataon na makapagbigay ng tamang rekomendasyon si Secretary Pangilinan," he said.

(This is a commendable action because they are giving Secretary Pangilinan the opportunity to make recommendations of his own.)

But he said the two officials should submit a list of their accomplishments to Malacañang before leaving their posts.  

New appointees?

Reacting to Calayag's resignation, Pangilinan told reporters, "That will give us the freehand on who will replace him. We are now in the process of talking to people who can replace him. But we hope to bring in people with integrity and ability to properly run what they call these problematic agencies."

He also mentioned "new appointments" in the agencies but declined to mention them because "there will be people affected."

But word is out that NIA Administrator Claro Maranan and FPA Director Norli Gicana are also likely to be replaced.

Forbes has been severely criticized for his agency's slow pace in containing the new strain of coconut scale insect that has infested more than 500,000 coconut trees in Region 4A (Calabarzon).

Calayag faces a plunder complaint for alleged involvement in the importation of overpriced rice from Vietnam. His agency has had to deal with cases of rice smuggling and fluctuating prices of rice. 

Both Calayag and Forbes are said to be part of the "Quezon Mafia," close associates of Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala from his hometown of Quezon where he served as congressman for two terms.

Pangilinan's first week

By his own count, Pangilinan is only around 140 hours into his new job as presidential assistant, a position that comes with cabinet rank.

Within the week of May 12, he expects to have briefings with all 4 of the agencies, he said. He just attended a briefing with PCA officials last Friday. 

In his first week, he responded to two issues directly involving his assigned agencies: the coconut scale insect outbreak in Region 4A and the El Niño phenomenon already affecting the effectiveness of irrigation systems in bringing water to crop fields.

The new secretary and his still skeletal staff are in the process of moving from his Makati office to an office within the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City, a source close to Pangilinan told Rappler.

Pangilinan took his oath before President Aquino on May 6 with marching orders to clean up the 4 agencies that had been linked to irregularities. 

He is part of the president's Liberal Party and was a senator from 2001 to 2013. He has also served as chairman for the Senate committee on Agriculture. – Rappler.com

 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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