Tuesday, August 30, 2016

NSC- CIT appeals for Ambassador Conejos’ retention

For continuity in handling the forthcoming discussions on the Philippine’s rice quantitative restriction (QR) in World Trade Organization (WTO), National Sectoral Committee – Committee on International Trade (NSC-CIT) members appealed for Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr.’s retention as the permanent representative of the Philippines to the WTO.

Amb. Conejos was appointed as the permanent representative of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the WTO by the former President Benigno S. Aquino III on July 2012 and has been reappointed two years further after his first term expires.

As the new administration comes, Amb. Conejos has been recalled to the Philippines from its base in Geneva, Switzerland effective June 30, 2016.

The recall of Amb. Conejos crippled the operations of the Philippine Mission to the WTO in Geneva because of the absence of our country’s representative in significant meetings and negotiations with other parties particularly to the rice QR.

QR is a trade restriction placed on the amount of goods that can be imported into a country and this protects the price of domestically produced goods or to decrease or eliminate a trade deficit.

The Philippines has secured a waiver on its WTO obligation to tariffy rice in 2014. Currently, it was allowed to retain the rice QR until June 30, 2017.

To address the issue of country’s rice QR and absence of representative to WTO, series of meetings have been conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) - CIT.

Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr. tackles the matter on the country’s rice QR in one of the meetings of NSC – CIT at PCAF Conference Room in Quezon City. In photo, from left, Former DA – Chief of Staff Atty. Dennis Guerrero and NSC-CIT Chairperson Raul Montemayor.
Aside from Amb. Conejos, present in the meetings were Charge d’ Affaires to the WTO, Geneva, Switzerland Consul Ryan Gener; Philippine Agricultural Attaché to Geneva, Switzerland Jerome Bunyi; Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Segfredo Serrano; former DA Chief of Staff Atty. Dennis Guerrero; NSC-CIT Chairperson Raul Montemayor; PCAF employees; members of the CIT and chairpersons of each NSCs.

After thorough discussions, the CIT members passed a resolution requesting the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to endorse to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. and President Rodrigo Duterte to retain Amb. Conejos as the country’s permanent representative to the WTO.

According to the resolution signed by NSC-CIT chairperson Raul Montemayor, Amb. Conejos is in the best position to handle the upcoming discussions on the rice QR because he has been consistently involved in various activities in the WTO and proficiently developed effective working relationships with WTO member.

“Philippine Mission, headed by Amb. Conejos, is already doing the groundwork for the negotiations involving either the lifting of the QR by 2017 or extension of the waiver,” the CIT members added in the resolution.

It also stated that it may take a while before a new ambassador can be appointed to the WTO and it would even take more time for the newly appointed ambassador to understand the complexity of the issues being discussed in the WTO.

NAF Council endorses DA’s proposed 2017 budget

Representatives from different concerned government agencies and private sector assemble to discuss the 2017 DA’s proposed budget towards to a more competitive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector.
After comprehensive discussions at the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAF Council) meeting on the finalization of DA’s Plan and Budget proposal on April 19, 2016, the council unanimously agreed to endorse the proposed Php83.67B budget of Department of Agriculture (DA) for fiscal year 2017.

The meeting, presided by Usec. Segfredo Serrano on behalf of DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, was attended by the members from National Sectoral Committees (NSC), Agricultural Fishery Councils (AFCs), civil society organizations, non-government organizations, national government agencies, and farmers and fisherfolk groups.

The NAF Council promotes consensus on and support for national agency and LGU budgets to finance programs and projects for agricultural and fisheries modernization.

The meeting, held at DA/NAFC/LDC Conference Room in Quezon City, was undertaken primarily to finalize the proposal of the agriculture department for 2017’s more productive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector.

Director Carlos Magnaye of DA Planning and Monitoring Service presented the proposal to the members for their feedback and recommendations for its favorable outcome.

The proposed budget, which will be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), is 55.01% higher than the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Part of the DA’s thrusts and priorities for 2017 include increasing investments in rural infrastructure such as farm-to-market roads (FMR), bridges, irrigation and postharvest facilities.

The Php19.2B budget will be allocated to FMR which is Php11.8B or 160.23% higher than the allotted for this year.

To establish a modern, climate-resilient, and market-oriented agri-fishery sector, DA is also increasing its funds for Philippine Rural Development Program to P9.6B.

The department is also looking to increase the budget for rice program to Php9B in anticipation of the possibility of trade liberalization. The proposed budget for livestock is Php2.5B, Php2.8B for corn, Php3.7B for high value crops, Php6.1B for fisheries and Php852 thousand for organic agriculture.

The 2017 DA target includes the provision of technical support and improved regulatory services to Food Safety Act of 2013, mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management, and enhanced access to agricultural insurance, guarantee and credit.

During the meeting, some issues and concerns were raised by the members of the NAF Council.

The members stated that there is a need to examine previous projects/plans/policies (drawbacks and gains) as basis for determining future plans and programs for a more effective use of resources.  Also, in relation to trade, there is a need to identify policy reforms for agriculture and fisheries, particularly on how the DA measures success.

The Committee on Climate Change recommended that the budget of the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) for 2017 be restored to its original level as proposed.

Committee on Food Staples and International Trade chairperson, Raul Montemayor reiterated that, “the DA must introduce programs, approaches and innovations for a more effective use of resources for 2017. Likewise, necessary steps should be undertaken in the preparation for rice liberalization or removal of the quantitative restrictions (QR) for rice in 2017.”

Aside from rice QR, some matters were also brought up namely: labor displacement due to mechanization, identification of suitable areas for planting rice; irrigation subsidy for rice farmers; promoting of sorghum as alternative sources of animal feed; establishment of service centers; and harmonization of roadmaps.

These concerns were ably noted by PCAF as the NAF Council’s secretariat, to be forwarded to the concerned DA offices and agencies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

RAFC 6 Sectoral Committees identify clear-cut issues and concerns

One of the groups of chairpersons and members of RAFC and PAFC Region 6 Sectoral Committee roll out thier agenda for the Sectoral Consultation-Workshop.
More than 30 Regional and Provincial Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAF and PAFC) sectoral committee chairpersons and members gathered at the RAFC Sectoral Consulatation-Workshop of Region 6 on May 12 to 13, 2016 at the Nature Trails in Sibunag, Guimaras.

The two-day workshop was intended to identify the sectoral policy issues and concerns challenging the implementers and stakeholders in Region 6.

To provide more focus on specifi commodities, the AFC sectoral members were divided into four groups based on their areas of concerns. These include Food Staples and Climate Change; Poultry and Livestock/Rural Women; Commercial Crops/Organic Agriculture; and Mechanization / Fisheries and Aquaculture.

As the sectoral representatives of the AFC, the participants embody the sectoral committees in their respective regions and provinces. 

As the sectoral representatives of the AFC, the participants embody the sectoral committees in their respective regions and provinces. 

Meanwhile, Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries - Policy Development and Coordination Division (PCAF-PDCD) Chief Julieta Opulencia upadated the AFC members on the NAF Council and National Sectoral and Strategic Concerns Committees' (NSCs) policy recommendations and resolutions adopted and endorsed for the first Quarter of 2016. 

Aside from this, Opulencia also discussed the proper identification of priority policy agenda at the AFC level during the workshop.

Policy agenda refers to the issues, lists of subjects or problems of a specific policy domain, which are agri and fishery related, that will be discussed in a NSC or AFC meeting.

"The AFC of Region 6 can use NSCs' identified priority policy agenda as reference in setting the council's agenda for the meetings. They can also identify current and emerging issues at the local level which can be resolved either through a project or policy agenda," the PDCD Chief added.

In the resolution, the issues and concerns which require the crafting or updating of a policy, the council has to recommend through a policy resolution in order to address the gaps that hamper the growth and development of the respective sectors.

In the workshop that ensued, one of the issues and concerns emphasized was insufficient number of technical personnel and expertise in the Local Government Units (LGUs) to oversee a smooth and expeditious implementation of programs and projects related to mechanization to complement with the concerned agencies. The group recommended the creation of Agricultural Engineering Division at the LGUs.

The need to have good quality planting materials of high value crops like coffe and cacao, and lack of testing laboratories for water, soil, organic fertilizer and pesticide residue were also identified. One of the committees moved for the adoption of a resolution to fast track the accreditation of Alaguisoc Farmers and Producers Association, Inc., as a source of quality planting materials. They have also recommended requesting DA to provide tissue culture laboratories in Region 6.

The workshop outputs will be presented in a RAFC meeting for further discussion and finalization . After the meeting, appropriate policy recommendations on resolutions can be adopted for endorsement to concerned agencies.

The sectoral meeting coincided with the Farmer's and Fisherfolk's Day celebrated during the 23rd Manggahan Festival of the Province of Guimaras.

Monday, August 8, 2016

NSC, AFC, and PCAF thank Sec. Alcala for six-year Outstanding support

Sec. Alcala receives a plaque of appreciation from the PCAF Executive Director Engr. Ariel T. Cayanan. With them is Atty. Christian Monsod of NSC-Committee on Climate Change.

In the joint meeting of the National Sectoral Committees (NSC) officers and Regional Agricultural Fishery Councils (RAFC) chairpersons on June 06, 2016, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala was given a commendation for his invaluable support and recognition for participatory governance in the DA development processes at the Apacible Hall, DA Compound, in Quezon City.

More than 50 NSC members, RAFC chairpersons and PCAF employees gathered to acknowledge Sec. Alcala’s outstanding support to the initiatives and policy recommendations of PCAF’s consultative bodies in six years.

Atty. Christian Monsod, NSC on Climate Change chairperson, who led the meeting with PCAF Executive Director Ariel Cayanan, gave every member and chairperson the opportunity to speak and give their notable experiences with the secretary’s leadership.

“We are very happy with the “Proceso” and with the results because you have been very supportive of these councils,” Atty. Monsod said. 

Through the approval of Farm Mechanization during Sec. Alcala’s term, it became easier in Isabela, Cagayan Valley in harvesting their crops according to the Region 2 AFC chairperson, Mr. Isidro Acosta Sr.

PCAF’s partners also commended Sec. Alcala who fought for a higher Department of Agriculture budget during his term.

“Yun pong budget na ibinigay ni Pangulong Noynoy for the past 6 years, (kapag) ikinumpara po namin sa budget ng buong kagawaran buhat (noong) 1975 hanggang 2010, lamang pa po ang (ibinigay) ni PNoy na budget (nang halos) 45 bilyong piso,” Sec. Alcala said.

According to an article by Pia Ronda of Rappler, the budget of Agriculture Department during the Aquino administration was approximately PhP67.8 billion a year, a total of PhP339 billion from 2011 to 2015. This is PhP28.1 billion higher compared to the 2009 DA budget of the Arroyo administration according to ABS-CBN News Online.  

Sec. Alcala also praised PCAF for its significant contribution and efforts to meet the needs of the Filipino farmers and fisherfolks.

“Ang pinakamalaking ambag po ng PCAF sa Department of Agriculture… ay hindi lang po (pagiging) watchdog, ‘kundi talagang totoong nagbibigay (ng) guidelines and guidance sa mga programang kailangan para itaas ang antas ng pangangailangan ng bawat komunidad.” Secretary added.

Sec. Alcala, whose term ended on June 30, 2016, further thanked the NSCs and AFCs for their support and cooperation during his six-year term and wished the next administration to have a genuine love with farmers and fisherfolks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

PCAF builds Strategic Framework for Medium Term AFMP

Exec. Dir. Ariel Cayanan shares a light moment with RAFC Region 10 Chairperson Edgardo Layug; RAFC Region 5 Chairperson Jose Cordero, Jr.; NSC Committee on Commercial Crops Head David Santos, and RAFC Region 1 Chairperson Vincent Adorna, during his opening remarks.
 In today’s challenging agriculture and fishery industry, strategic planning is everything.

“This strengthens the team by defining a clearer focus and direction of an agency,” Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries- Planning, Monitoring and Knowledge Management Division (PCAF-PMKMD) Chief Estrella Tulay shared on the first day of the agency’s Strategic Planning Workshop for 2017-2022 in View Park Hotel in Tagaytay City.

More than 30 selected employees from PCAF’s four Operating Units (OUs) participated in the workshop on July 11 to 15, 2016 to draw up a strategy framework.

PCAF’s OUs, which are led by the office of Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director, are composed of Administrative, Financial and Management Division (AFMD), PMKMD, Policy Development and Coordination Division (PDCD), and Partnership Development Division (PDD).

PMKMD Chief Estrella Tulay explains the importance of Strategic Planning in one organization like PCAF.
PCAF’s strategic framework will be the agency’s guide for the formulation of its Strategic Plan and the crafting of its Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan (AFMP) for the next 6 years.

During the five-day workshop, PCAF employees revisited the agency’s mission, vision and strategic objectives. Each division carefully reviewed and settled issues relative to the functions of other OUs.

Angelo Ramon Tanchoco, Development Academy of the Philippines consultant and team leader of the evaluative study on PCAF’s consultative bodies presented the result, findings and recommendations of the study titled “Participatory Governance in Agriculture and Fisheries Development: An Evaluative Study on PCAF’s Consultative Bodies (CBs)”. 

Based on the study, Tanchoco and his team recommended the strengthening of Sectoral Committees at all levels as the main consultative agent. It also proposed to redefine Agricultural and Fishery Councils (AFCs) as inter-sectoral and private-government coordinating body.

On the other hand, international consultant-trainer Carmen “Mench” Auste helped PCAF employees to attain clearer perspective in the reevaluation and identification of PCAF’s strengths, setbacks and best practices.

PCAF employees actively participate in various activities pursued to elicit feedback and actions toward the crafting of strategic framework.

As part of the workshop, the participants recalled and highlighted the agency’s accomplishments for the past years. Auste prepared questions for each team to answer and presented it in a creative way.

Aside from the activities, strategic planning concepts and principles were also discussed. The outputs of the discussion were considered in the crafting of the agency’s midterm plan. 

Auste organized activities like Strategic Café where participants expressed their opinions and ideas about PCAF’s functions. Some of the significant outputs were competency building for the existing staff and hiring of proficient people that matches PCAF’s job requirements; the issuance of Executive Order or Administrative Order to include AFCs in the Department of Agriculture (DA) key processes and budget support, and set-up of information system and knowledge database.

Other suggestions encompassed scaling up effective PCAF programs, projects and initiatives like increase the numbers of Municipal AFCs; monitor emerging concerns; establish NAF Council café, and creation of regional PCAF offices as well as Agriculture and Fishery Mechanization Committee division in PCAF.

The findings of each activity identified the gaps, inadequacies and accomplishments of the 3-year-old agency that became the basis of the strategic directions of PCAF.

Among the issues that were discussed during the review of OU functions were the interlocks between and among sections and divisions. Several interlocking functions were identified and clarified but some needs further merging and delineation in the processes of each OU’s tasks.

“Interlocks are not overlap. They are all of strategic value. The purpose of interlock is when the task is complex, it is expected that you will have each other to help out. Let us go out from the old frame na pag ibang division, ibang section lang ang gagawa, sila lang dapat ang gumawa. They are supposed to lighten our load,” Auste explained the importance of interlocks.

Framework of 2017-2022 Strategic Plan

According to Clearpath, a US-based consulting firm, Strategic Framework is a comprehensive picture of the organization’s strategy. 

In the workshop, PCAF employees clarify how individual efforts, divisions and CBs’ projects, activities and programs can be connected to achieve the best outcome. The team magnified the gaps and setbacks in the workshop to see a clearer picture of PCAF. 

Among the gaps and setbacks highlighted were: employee competency building and involvement of information officers and planning officers during consultations at the local level.

The participants saw the need to enhance the awareness of all the CBs about PCAF, its structure, roles and functions.

With the help of Auste, the participants identified and aligned the Outcomes, Strategic Initiatives (SI) and Milestones of PCAF. This resulted into Strategic Framework which will be the guide of PCAF to create the 6-year Strategic Plan.

Auste gives instructions to PCAF employees on how to come up with Outcomes, SI and Milestones.
Auste described Outcome as the result of an activity in process, the change or difference in an organization. These could be achieved through learning, action or condition.

While SI are general plans for the entire 6 years which can be attained through Milestones by creating step by step programs, activities and projects.

The initial outputs of the strategic framework are based on the Outcomes per divisions. PDCD have written “responsive and sound policies for agriculture and fisheries development” as their Outcome.

PDD laid out their Outcomes as broad-based and active participation of stakeholders in CBs; dynamic, responsive and sustainable CBs; maximized support and enhanced synergies with key stakeholders; and sound and responsive policies for agriculture and fishery development.
While PMKMD set in context the improved synergies synchronization and coordination of activities, and enhancement of good governance in PCAF and its CBs” as some of their Outcomes.

As part of AFMD Outcomes, they have identified as prudence and judicious use of resources, and high quality and responsive AFM support services.

The final strategic framework which will include the measures, responsibility centers and coordination activities of other OUs will be submitted to PMKMD- PPS on the 1st week of August.

The said section will review and consolidate the submitted framework. Upon consolidation, the final output will be presented to PCAF Executive Director Ariel Cayanan and to the Division Chiefs.