Pangilinan calls for merger of DA and DAR to improve extension service to farmers, fishers

RIGHTSIZING should be done to better manage extension services for farmers and fisher folk, and a way to do it is to merge the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan made the proposal Wednesday morning as the Senate began its plenary deliberations for the 2021 national budget.

“The manifestation earlier of Sen. [Franklin] Drilon regarding the Department of Agrarian Reform that it has been over 40 years since its mandate of distributing land is still there,” Pangilinan said.

“On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture’s extension services is very weak. This is one observation as to why countries like Thailand or Malaysia are very strong on agriculture because of extension service. So a rightsizing approach would be to merge the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR),” he said.

Records show that DAR has 8,383 filled positions out of 10,209 total permanent positions in the Office of the Secretary alone.

The DA, meanwhile, only has 9,093 out of 12,604 permanent positions filled. This number already includes their extension offices.

“Strengthen the extension service of the Department of Agrarian Reform or the Department of Agriculture and absorb the agrarian reform agency precisely because their mandate should have been completed at this point. That would be an example of rightsizing,” Pangilinan said.

He said rightsizing also involves the retraining and capacity-building of DAR personnel for delivery of extension services.

“Pag nangyari ito, mas lalaki ang produksyon natin ng pagkain, na kailangan nating lahat,” Pangilinan said.

Senator Sonny Angara, who as head of the Senate committee on finance is sponsor of the budget bill, agreed with Pangilinan’s proposal.

The Senate is expected to deliberate the P4.5 trillion national budget until November 18.

Despite the lockdowns that disrupted the food supply value chain, agriculture has been the saving grace for the national economy during the pandemic, posting 0.5 percent growth in the second quarter and 0.7 percent growth in the third quarter.

“Mas yayabong pa ang agrikultura kung maayos ang extension service at credit access sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Pag nasiguro natin ang kanilang pag-unlad, masisiguro rin natin ang ating masaganang hapag-kainan,” Pangilinan said.