TRANSITION PLAN. Agriculture Secretary William Dar assures the public that the Department of Agriculture is ready to turn over short-, medium-, and long-term programs and plans to incoming President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as he leads the agency during the Laging Handa public briefing on Wednesday (June 22, 2022). Dar also said they are confident Marcos will act against those involved in agricultural smuggling. (Screengrab)

MANILA – Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Wednesday he is confident President-elect and incoming Agriculture chief Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will act on agricultural smuggling issues that harm the value of local production.

In the Laging Handa public briefing, the outgoing chief said they are intensifying efforts to collect evidence to ensure corrupt personnel are held liable.

“Dapat iyon po ang isang pagtuunan po. Yes, malaki po ang tiwala natin (That should be the focus. Yes, we have high trust [on president-elect Marcos]),” he said.

Dar made the statement as Senate President Vicente Sotto III handed over the “list of [people] allegedly involved in agricultural smuggling” to the incoming chief executive.

He also mentioned the Department of Agriculture’s investigation is still ongoing to trace those behind these malicious practices, even imposing preliminary actions against some personnel.

“It has to be kung ano iyong report ng Senate and the House, pananagutin kung dapat sinong managot (what should be in the report of the Senate and the House, must be held accountable). Number two, we continue to do our collection of evidence, kasi (because) we need to really have evidence to nail down our people. Mayroon na kami (We already have). Meanwhile, we have reassigned some of these people doon sa areas na hindi nila maituloy iyong (so they cannot continue their) malpractices nila,” he added.

Earlier, the DA said smuggling is done technically when violators subject themselves to legal procedures of acquiring an import permit or accreditation, but misuse or misdeclare products.

Dar, meanwhile, disagreed with the widely criticized “special importation” approach of the department, which allegedly harmed the local production of goods.

“Wala pong katotohanan iyong ganoon na policy direction.... pinapatupad po natin ang (There’s no truth to that... we are implementing the) food security goal. We boost the productivity of various commodities in agriculture the best we could, based on the limitations of budget and the like. So kung anuman iyong pagkukulang (So whatever the deficiencies), then you have to augment that,” he said.

Moreover, he said the department is ready to turn over their short-, medium-, and long-term programs and plans to Marcos, although this has not been scheduled yet.

Dar said the key issues that needed to be addressed include increasing local production, the transferring of the Food Terminal System to the DA to increase food stock in Metro Manila, and the increasing of rice buffer stock or the procurement of locally-produced rice for the National Food Authority (NFA).

“So, they will be granted concessional loans from the DBP [Development Bank of the Philippines]... Our overall recommendation is 30 days with NFA buffer stock, and 30 days with local government. That will be the day also where the prices of palay are stabilized during harvest time because there’s huge exposure for the national government and local governments. And that has to be one of those marching orders of the incoming President,” he said. (PNA)