PCA chief declares corruption-free agency

Published August 24, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

 Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator and ex-Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr. has declared his agency “corruption-free” as it prepares to handle for the eventual release of the P100-billion coco levy fund.

Madrigal’s declaration also distanced PCA from other government agencies, including Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), which are hounded by corruption issues.

PCA is preparing to handle the forthcoming release of the P100-billion coco levy fund based on the proposed Coco Levy Act pending in Congress.         

“We can assure you that we are very transparent,” Madrigal told Business Bulletin. “Even in our COVID-19 response for coconut farmers, we do geo-tagging so we have full proof of the assistance distributed to farmers. We really make sure they receive it.”

Madrigal said he also directed all PCA regional managers that there should always be project monitoring and observers in all procurement transactions.

“Essentially, my role here in PCA is management. I can assure you that we will have a very competitive staff,” he further said.

 It was just in January since Madrigal secured PCA’s top post, just four months since his retirement as AFP Chief.  

 Before that, PCA has undergone more than three management transitions, which started when it was first proposed that the controversial coco levy fund should go straight into the hands of the PCA Board for the agency to handle and distribute.

This proposal, which is the gist of the proposed Coco Levy Act, resulted in the mass courtesy resignation of the previous PCA Board – led by former PCA Administrator Romulo de la Rosa – in February last year.

 President Rodrigo Duterte then ordered former Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lieutenant General Galileo Kintanar Jr. to take over the agency, saying that if the latter “can fly a plane”, he will also be able to handle billions of funds set to be transferred to PCA.  

 For some reasons, Kintanar’s appointment didn’t push through and the President instead decided to appoint lawyer Gonzalo Duque as the new PCA chief a few months later. 

At that time, Duque, who is the brother of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, was still a Social Security Commission (SSC) Commissioner.

Duque’s appointment also didn’t happen, with Madrigal finally securing the position eight months ago.

Institutional transformation at PCA

 In an earlier interview with Business Bulletin, Pambansang Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) Chairman Ed Mora raised concerns over the plan of legislators to entrust the huge coconut levy fund, which came from the taxes imposed on coconut farmers by the Marcos administration and its cronies, to PCA.

According to him, the PCA has a “very poor track” record in terms of handling support to coconut farmers.

 “I have nothing against PCA but it has been there for a long time and yet coconut farmers are still poor. Why are we trusting them with the implementation of the Coco Levy Act?” Mora said.

For his part, months into his position, Madrigal observed that PCA indeed needs some massive transformation. He said this is important to transform the entire coconut industry.  

To do this, he said the PCA decided to enroll in the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA), a non-profit organization committed to transforming the public sector and works closely with national government agencies, local government units, and hospitals to spur growth in the Philippines.

 Under this move, the PCA will be forced to follow the global practices identified in ISA’s Performance Governance System (PGS), a holistic and collaborative framework for designing and executing roadmaps to long-term reform.

 PGS culls global best practices in managing strategy to meet the rising needs of Philippine public sector institutions. It builds governance reform capacities across a four-stage pathway, and addresses a wide array of challenges while also yielding niche impact.

“When I first came here at PCA, I had so many questions. First is institutional. I notice a lot of things are missing. There was no strategic communications and the IT, especially in terms of program monitoring, has weak absorptive capacity. The perception of congress is PCA can’t utilize the money, but the real problem is program implementation and monitoring,” Madrigal said.

 “PCA shouldn’t only focus on transforming the industry. It also needs institutional transformation,” he added.

On August 28, the PCA Multi-Sector Advisory Board (MSAB) will be officially enrolled in ISA.

“[We will] start our journey to becoming the leading agency in the agriculture sector, steering a market-driven coconut industry with greater global reach and significance,” Madrigal said in a statement.