The mixed legacy of Manny Pinol

Former Agriculture secretary Emmanuel pinol leaves the Department of Agriculture with a mixed legacy. The media savvy former North Cotabato governor and newspaperman was easily the most visible Duterte supporter in the period leading to the 2016 presidential elections.

In his three years as DA Secretary, however he has been the butt of many jokes of the president, from being “all air” and underperforming to meet the food demand of a growing nation, and for persisting in doing press releases of farm equipment distribution while our agriculture growth slumped in 2018.

Serious calls for his removal were strongest in 2018 at the height of the rice crisis which he was unable to solve by supposedly boosting production. Retail rice prices rose by an average of 5 pesos per kilo. These abated only with imports liberalized with the Rice tarrification law.

Despite this, his stubborn insistence in rice self sufficiency is often challenged by agriculture experts, even chided by the President as a “bluff” (https://www.bworldonline.com/duterte-says-the-philippines-rice-self-sufficiency-goal-may-not-be-attainable/)

As with other Duterte cabinet members, performance matters. His own performance, reflected in the growth of Philippine agriculture, needs to be critically reviewed and evaluated.

The 2018 growth in agriculture fell to near PNOy administration levels at a mere 0.56%, far below the 2% needed to keep food prices stable and keep inflation levels low. Little wonder why we had spikes in the price of “sili” and excess production of tomatoes in some areas, and a near 6% inflation in 2018.

This means we will need an agriculture Secretary that can ensure continuous, sustained growth not only for the welfare of our farmers, but for the security of every one’s food, the management of inflation, and the growth of our economy.