KIDAPAWAN CITY—After reproving National Irrigation Administration officials for contradicting his free irrigation pledge, incoming Agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced the agency’s new head as well as other Agriculture officials.
During a farmers’ congress here, Piñol named engineer Cesar Sulaik as the new NIA administrator along with lawyer Ranibai Dilangalen and Bernadette Romulo-Puyat as undersecretaries.
To the delight of the farmers, Piñol vowed to eliminate corruption in the agency and alleviate the lives of poor farmers as the incoming Duterte administration will focus on rice production to cope with the current shortage of 1.8 million metric tons of rice.
Piñol said the government will provide farmers free rice and corn seeds and fertilizers for two successive cropping seasons.
“This is a start to give you [farmers who suffered the recent El Niño effects] a good chance to improve your lives and the next generation,” Piñol said.
Piñol also announced the appointment of Evelyn Laviña of Davao City as head of the DA-High Value Crop Program, while Pompy Laviña, a businessman from Cagayan de Oro City, will oversee the DA’s Entrepreneur Program for Farmers.
In addition, Piñol also named lawyer Jovy Bernabe as head of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. and retired coast guard commodore Eduardo Gongona as head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Moreover, Piñol said Hazel Sto. Niño will serve as assistant secretary for special concerns while Ferdinand Piñol, his brother and former M’lang town administrator, will be his executive assistant.
Piñol also introduced engineer Mila Casis of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, as new DA Region 12 chief who will replace outgoing DA Region 12 Director Amalia Jayag-Datukan.
Piñol said the incoming Agriculture officials were chosen based on their experience, capability and dedication to public service.
On Friday, Piñol slammed NIA officials for questioning president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to providing free irrigation to farmers.
“Anybody in government who does not share President Duterte’s vision for the Filipino farmer is free to leave and find another job,” Piñol said on his Facebook page. “I will place a big garbage can in front of my office on July 1. You can throw in your resignation letters in that trash can and leave.”
Piñol said he was irked by a statement of NIA public affairs manager Pilipina P. Bermudez that free irrigation for farmers would adversely affect the operations of the agency.
“Free irrigation for the Filipino farmers is a presidential commitment and it is non-negotiable. To hear a statement from the NIA questioning that commitment is not only irritating but also a manifestation of the malady afflicting people in government—that is the failure to think outside the box to help people,” Piñol said.
“There are people in government who think that they are bigger and higher than the people they are supposed to serve,” Piñol said.
Piñol said he also received a complaint from Regional Director Jun Alviar after the NIA in Region 2 declined to release irrigation water despite repeated requests from the farmers.
“There is something wrong with the way NIA is being managed right now. Many of its top officials may have forgotten that the reason why there is a NIA is because government would like to produce food for the Filipino people by providing irrigation,” Piñol said.
Piñol had earlier proposed that the NIA be brought back under the supervision of the Agriculture Department, after President Aquino placed the agency along with three others under the supervision of the Presidential Adviser on Food Security.
“I hope people in government now, especially those who will work with me in the Agriculture Department and its attached agencies, will understand this–we are here not to lord it over the people but to serve them,” he said.