Farmers to receive free irrigation, before I gave my tired body rest last night, I received a text message from a news organization asking for my reaction to a statement by the spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) that President Rody Duterte’s promise of free irrigation water for the farmers would adversely affect the operations of the agency.
My answer was very clear.
“Anybody in government who does not share President Duterte’s vision for the Filipino farmer is free to leave and find another job,” I told Shyla Francisco of Bloomberg TV PH.
People in government who still does not know President Duterte’s character better read this.
When Duterte makes a commitment, it is a promise which must be fulfilled and i as his alter ego in the agriculture department will make sure that it will be realized.
What got my goat last night was the fact that the issue of the Presidential promise of free irrigation was already discussed during the transition meeting I had with the heads of the four agencies under the Office of the President on Food Security and Agricultural Modernisation (OPAFSAM) which was also attended by Presidential Adviser Edel Guiza.
In fact, I remember clearly telling NIA Administrator Wencie Padernal to come up with a strategy on how to ensure that the Presidential promise is fulfilled.
“The issue of free irrigation for the Filipino farmers is a Presidential commitment and it is non-negotiable. Find a way to make sure it is implemented by 2017,” I remembered telling Padernal.
To hear a statement from the NIA questioning that commitment is not only irritating but also a manifestation of the malady afflicting people in government – that is the failure to think outside the box to help people.
Farmers Should be taken Care
“Kung gusto, maraming paraan; Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan,” goes an old Pilipino saying.
There is really something wrong with the way the NIA is being managed right now.
Many of its top officials may have forgotten that the reason why there is a NIA is because government would like to produce food for the Filipino people by providing irrigation.
There are people in government who think that they are bigger and higher than the people they are supposed to serve.
When I was in Cagayan Valley last week, I received a complaint from Dept. of Agriculture Jun Alviar that the NIA in Region 2, in spite of repeated requests from the farmers, has failed to release the water to irrigate the farms.
The early release of water is very critical because of the threat of La Niña by November. It is a must that the rice farmers are able to plant by July.
In my exasperation, I told Alviar to relay to the NIA director my request for him to release the water as requested by the farmers or else my first official act as Secretary of Agriculture by July 1 will be to fire.
I hope people in government now, especially those who will work with me in the agriculture department and its attached agencies, will understand this – we are here not to lord it over the people but to serve them.
If you find this hard to understand and difficult to implement, I will place a big garbage can in front of my office on July 1.
You could throw in your resignation letters in that trash can and leave government.