A year and three months into his position, Agriculture Secretary William Dar has finally decided to shake things up at the Department of Agriculture (DA) with a major reshuffle followed by a series of appointments.
For some of the agency’s government officials, this was not necessarily a bad thing, especially after Dar either promoted them or assigned them in concurrent positions.
As a start, former Chief-of-Staff (COS) and Undersecretary Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero is now the undersecretary for agri-industrialization and for fisheries.
As undersecretary for agri-industrialization, she will supervise the implementation of strategic initiatives, particularly the setting up of Agri-industrial Business Corridors (ABCs) nationwide and implementation of inclusive agribusiness programs.
As undersecretary for fisheries, she will oversee crafting and implementation of policies and programs to further enhance the performance and contribution of the aquaculture, municipal and commercial fishing sectors to the national economy.
She was also tasked to oversee the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), and other offices related to fisheries.
The DA has not yet made any clarification as to whether BFAR Director Eduardo Gongonga has been replaced by Caballero.
Caballero, on the other hand, was replaced by Leocadio Sebastian, former executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute and regional program leader of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia, as the new COS with the rank of Undersecretary.
He will be assisted by Carmencita Kagaoan as deputy COS for programs, and Alexander Arizabal, Jr. as deputy COS for operations, in concurrent capacity as head executive assistant.
Meanwhile, Liza Battad, OIC-executive director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) was designated, in a concurrent capacity, as the new assistant secretary-designate for regulations.
Dar also designated several officials to lead respective DA attached agencies and staff bureaus, namely Myer Mula as OIC-director of the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS), in a concurrent capacity as director of the DA Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD); Vivencio Mamaril, formerly head of BAFPS, as director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), replacing Nicomedes Eleazar, who recently retired; Eric Divinagracia as deputy executive director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA); Claro Mingala as OIC-executive director of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC); and Paul Limson, as OIC-assistant director, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).
Dar said this part of his continuing efforts to streamline and efficiently implement major agricultural and fishery programs at the DA.
“In any organization, there should be continuous streamlining to make the team responsive to the changing times, and also ensure that only the right people, with the necessary skills, are in the right places to produce the desired outcomes,” said Dar.
The major reshuffle took place more than a year after Dar, less than a week into office, said there will be no major reshuffle among DA officials.
But that's only if these officials — most of which were personally appointed by incoming Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Emmanuel Piñol — can prove they are worthy of their positions, he said.
"I'll give the room for them to hang themselves," Dar said back then. "If they will not work, they should leave".
To streamline the operations of the DA's Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Dar also designated two assistant directors to join current BPI assistant director Gerald Glenn Panganiban, namely Andres Alemania, for regulatory; and Jonar Yago, for research and development and pest management.
Several officials were also designated at BFAR, including Juan Albaladejo, as OIC-assistant director for operations. He was joined by two other assistant directors, Drusila Esther Bayate, for research and Demosthenes Escoto, for administrative services.
Raul Millana was likewise assigned as BFAR's regional director for Davao or Region 11, Alfeo Piloton as director for region 12; and Rosario Segundina Gaerlan as OIC-director for region 1.
Meanwhile, Director Nestor Domenden, formerly DA-BFAR region 1 director, was designated as OIC-regional executive director of DA-Regional Field Office 1.
To implement other DA programs and projects, Dar designated Rosana Mula as program director for youth, in a concurrent capacity as assistant director of the Agricultural Training Institute; Dionisio Alvindia, formerly of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), as project director for Rice Resiliency Project; Lucia Campomanes, as assistant director for the Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran ng Kababayang Katutubo (4K) program; and Deputy Executive Director Annray Rivera-Capili of the Philippine Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA) as program director for gender equality and social inclusion.
At a recent management committee (ManCom) meeting, Dar reminded these officials that they must cleanse the tarnished image of the DA as a corrupt agency by working together and diminish, once and for all, such lingering bad reputation. Always bear in our hearts and minds that a public office is a public trust”.