TACLOBAN CITY- Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny F. Piñol in his official visit to Eastern Visayas has expressed his intention to bring back to DA’s supervision all agricultural extension workers (AEWs) who were devolved to local government units due to the enactment and implementation of the Local Government Code of 1992.
“This is an anomaly,” Secretary Piñol said in an agri- stakeholders’ forum held recently at Hotel de Francisco in Catbalogan City, Samar as part of his “Biyaheng Bukid initiative” since his appointment as the Agri Chief by President Rody Duterte.

He said he had discussed this matter with DILG Secretary Mike Sueño on the possibility of having agricultural extension workers detailed at DA so the agency can answer for the cost of their travelling expenses to far flung barangays, even providing them with gasoline allowance for their vehicles. The DILG head was amenable to the idea, Piñol said, adding that he will also talk about this matter with concerned local government units and consequently craft a memorandum of agreement for this purpose.

Three governors, namely: Gov. Sharee Ann Tan of Samar, Gov. Jose Ong of Northern Samar and Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla of Leyte who were with Sec. Piñol during the dialogue aptly dubbed as “Aragtubang: Gobyerno ug Mulopyo (face-to-face: government and people) appeared to be amenable to the idea. According to Piñol he had toyed the idea of having field workers detailed at DA due to common observations that these workers are often seen in high heels and just staying at the office when they are supposed to be in the field.

During the forum he disclosed a massive plan to transform the entire Samar Island into a major food basket due to its seemingly vast array of untapped agricultural lands.
At the press conference which followed after the dialogue, Piñol said that “palalagu-in natin ang Samar until it turns into a food basket”. A project management team will be organized to be composed of DA-Regional Staff and the LGU-based extension workers. Accordingly, these extension workers, once detailed at DA and empowered with travel incentives, will be the focal persons to monitor progress of agriculture projects in their localities, and the measure of success will be to alleviate poverty of marginal farmers in two or three years’ time. The Municipal/City Agriculture Officers (MAOs) attending the stakeholders’ forum with the governors, district and party-list representatives, and the local farmer-leaders applauded on hearing Piñol’s elaborate plan to detail field workers to DA.

Practically, this has long been the common clamor of the devolved agricultural workers ever since the Local Government Code has been enforced. However, due to seeming lack of political will and other related reasons, the previous plans to bring them back to DA’s fold has been stalled. With this latest pronouncement and affirmation from the new DA Secretary, many are optimistic that sooner, Secretary Piñol will make good on his promise. (PR)