Marcos should fix 'deeply problematic' DA issues --- Sen. Hontiveros

Appoint an Agriculture chief to fix leadership issues.

That was what Senator Risa Hontiveros told President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday to prevent an impending crisis in the sugar industry and other essential products.

Hontiveros described the leadership in the Department of Agriculture (DA) as "deeply problematic" amid consecutive resignations of the agency's ranking officials over the sugar importation mess.

According to the senator, the controversy involving an unauthorized order made by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) shows the need for a revamp of the leadership structure of the DA and its attached agencies, especially with the looming shortage of sugar and skyrocketing sugar prices in the country.

"This fiasco with the SRA is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the chaotic organization and operation of the DA," Hontiveros warned.

For her, Marcos Jr. "should reconsider his position and appoint a competent person who would take charge of the DA." She said that would "end all controversies in the department, and focus on helping farmers and ensuring adequate food supply in the country."

Marcos, who earlier appointed himself as concurrent DA Secretary and SRA Board Chairman, already declared illegal the Sugar Order No. 4, which was issued for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar to supposedly address the deficit in sugar suuply.

Following the issue, at least three SRA and DA officials already resigned from their posts due to the issue. These included former DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, who signed an unauthorized order in his capacity as chief of staff of the DA Secretary.

"It is clear by now that having the president also perform the tasks of a DA Secretary only causes confusion and dysfunctionality in the bureaucracy. Take note, this took place within the first 100 days of the current administration. The public will continue to suffer from more of these blunders if no reforms are made to the DA’s leadership structure," Hontiveros said.

"As clearly shown by the situation in the DA, it is very difficult to do all of those responsibilities and at the same time focus on the myriad of programs that must be handled by the DA Secretary," she added, noting that Marcos is also the President as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.