Marcos: Reforms to come faster if I stay as Agri chief

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. believes he can implement the necessary reforms and effect changes if he stays as the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary.

President 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. (RTVM / PTV Screenshot)

Marcos said this as different parties continued to egg him to appoint a full-time Agriculture chief. Marcos has been concurrently serving as the head of the DA since he assumed office in June 2022.

In an interview, Marcos said he believes effecting changes in the DA would be faster because no one can say "no" to the President.

"For me, DA, there really are things that I can do if there was a secretary and he or she did it... magagawa pero matagal, madaming diskusyon (they can do it, but it would take some time, there would be plenty of discussions)," he said.

“The President, they cannot say no to. And ‘pag hindi nila ginawa ‘yung utos ko, puwede kong sitahin. Iyong secretary... may pakiusap pa (If they will not do what I say, I can call them out. A secretary can talk it out with them)," he added.

"We want to take that wiggle room out of that system," he continued.

In a recent interview in Switzerland, President Marcos said he would appoint a permanent secretary of agriculture who is an expert in the field, stressing he wants to do the "old, hard things" at the department.

He also thumbed down the idea of appointing a former military or police officer to lead the DA, saying the one holding the DA portfolio should be an agriculture expert who understands the science and the solution.

Dreams, bucket list

Marcos has expressed his "dreams" for the country's agriculture sector are attaining sustainable livelihood for farmers, having affordable food for all, as well as food security.

During the interview, he shared some items on his bucket list for the development of the agriculture sector, which include aiding farmers, improving research and development (R&D), and adopting new crop varieties.

"We have to help the farmers... We are trying to adopt new techniques for farming that will actually, I think, that we will be able to use – new technology, new variety, start with the R&D," the President said.

"You know, especially in the area of agriculture, the overarching issue is climate change," the President said.

Marcos said farmers need help scheduling things because the weather keeps changing.

And with the shocks that have hit the global economy and the supply chain problems, the government has to have many supplies so it can source various products somewhere, he added.

According to the President, he is coordinating with other countries to develop what he refers to as non-traditional suppliers, particularly for fertilizer, wheat, rice, and corn.

"Hopefully, down the road, in the few years, we no longer have to worry about non-traditional supply because we will be able to produce enough for ourselves," he said.

However, President Marcos admitted that the country's agriculture sector is facing multifaceted problems as demand overtook production, which puts pressure on prices and leaves the government with no choice but to import.

He said the country is in an "emergency" due to the neglect of the agricultural sector for many years, with local production way below the demand.

Onion and sugar

Regarding sugar and onion, Marcos said there is no record of how much of them were actually in the country.

"We are starting to get a hand on it now. And so we are going to put in terms of sugar, I mentioned specifically before that we will now, from now on, maintain a two-month buffer stock that is to mitigate the speculation," Marcos said.

“In terms of onions naman, ganoon pa rin ang sitwasyon (it's the same). We are not producing as much as we consume, and therefore, we still have to import," he added.

President Marcos pointed out, however, that scheduling importation is critical for both sugar and onion and all of the other commodities to protect the local industry. Imports must come in at the proper time so those goods do not compete with local farmers.

"'Pag maayos na 'yan (When we've cleared that), that is one box that I've been – I will tell I've been able to tick... But we come back to the problem of production," Marcos said.

"Then, we will have a secretary who will then take my place and will implement that plan. Basta’t alam nating nakakaintindi ito sa ating ginagawa (As long as we know they understand what we're doing)," he added