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Secretary Dar right fit for Digong’s team

August 08, 2019 - Thursday 4:08 AM by Jimmy Laking

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Bingo. President Duterte made the right choice by appointing Dr. William D. Dar as the secretary of agriculture.

Digong could not have picked a better man than Dar whose credentials as a horticulturist and a plant scientist are impressive. In scraping the bottom, Digong chose one who cut his teeth on agriculture and who is regarded as an expert in both temperate and lowland crops. It is an advantage none of his predecessors can lay claim to, an advantage tempered in the anvils of research and application.

In a manner of saying, like fish to water, Dar’s job has been cut out before him. I have always held the belief that the job of an Agriculture Secretary is a hard row to hoe. But if there is someone who could rise up to the challenge, it will be Dar. 

It seemed not right but one cannot avoid comparing him with his predecessor to realize why Dar is an exact fit to Duterte’s team. Where his predecessor looked pedestrian and sounded discordant at times, Dar had no such issues. In fact, he is certain to improve team chemistry and teamwork as it plunges into the homestretch. He will not be a square peg in a round hole either but will be the go-to-guy in helping steering agriculture towards self-sufficiency and modernization. 

In fact, right off the bat, Dar unveiled a strategy to realize the vision of President Duterte for a food-secure Philipppines (that also sought to double the income of farmers and fisherfolk). It looked a game changer. 

The strategy revolves around eight paradigms that make up the “new thinking” in agriculture, to include: modernization of agriculture, industrialization of agriculture, promotion of exports, farm consolidation, roadmap development, infrastructure development, higher budget and investments for agriculture, and legislative support.

For this strategy to unfold, Dar will need all the help he needs from President Duterte, his colleagues in the Cabinet, the line agencies, and the legislative department.

But considering the predominantly Ilocano composition of Duterte’s team, this accomplished son of Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur will be in a familiar league and a friendly environment.

Above all, Duterte’s economic team, with whom his predecessor was at odds, will find in Dar a team player who can roll with the punches and who could give as much as he could get in return. 

And where his predecessor was content to ride with the tide, Dar can be relied upon to craft policy given the lenses at his disposal. 

I should know. In 2009 when he was Agriculture Secretary, I had the opportunity to interview Dar when he visited his alma mater, the Benguet State University. It was the same school where I finished high school and where much, much earlier Primitivo Mijares (the author of the Conjugal Dictatorship) also finished his secondary education. 

What struck me in that interview was that Dar discussed briefly the effects of desertification of food production areas at a time when government was not talking about it. 

With him again at the helm (and under a much supportive administration), perhaps there is no harm in reminding him if that concern could be part of the strategy to make agriculture sustainable and forever.