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Dar accepts Agri challenge

Kristina Maralit

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The hard task of transforming the Department of Agriculture from a laggard to a performing agency will now be in the hands of Dr. William Dar who was tapped to replace Emmanuel Piñol as DA Secretary.

This was confirmed on Monday by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, replying with a short “yes” to a question by Palace reporters after initial reports of Dar’s appointment surfaced.

Medialdea also clarified that Dar will be serving in an acting capacity for the meantime.

Dar will be taking over the DA post from Piñol, who in turn was appointed by the President to head the Mindanao Development Authority.

The incoming Agriculture chief is no stranger to government service having previously served as Assistant Secretary of the DA and later as Presidential Adviser on Rural Development during the short-lived term of former President Joseph Estrada.

The President also appointed former Davao City administrator Wendel Avisado as acting Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Avisado was Mr. Duterte’s administrator from 2000-2010 when he was still the Davao City Mayor.

Medialdea also announced the appointment of Court of Appeals Justice Rodil Zalameda as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He will fill the post left by AJ Mariabo del Castillo who retired last 29 July.

Weakest link no more?

Mr. Duterte on numerous occasions lamented how much the agricultural industry has slowed down to become the “weakest link” in his administration’s initiatives to further stabilize the economy.

In 2018, the agriculture sector grew by only 0.8 percent, as admitted by Piñol, down from its 3.9 percent growth in 2017. This was way off the target production targets of 2.5 to 3.5 percent set by the government.

Piñol also reportedly did not see eye to eye with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, in contrast to Dar who has the full backing of the official.

Dar’s appointment came as a surprise, especially with the President previously announcing he would like another former military man to head the agency.

Dar, who totes a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and master’s degree in agronomy from the Benguet State University, is familiar with the DA and expectations are high that he can steer the country’s agricultural industry to the right path.

Dar is best known in the agricultural research community as a longtime former director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics for three five-year terms from 2000 to 2014.

Renowned in the field of horticulture — the art and science of growing and handling fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, flowers, foliage plants, woody ornamentals, and turf — Dar also holds s doctoral degree from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños.

His feats in agricultural research earned him The Outstanding Filipino Award in 2016 from Mr. Duterte.

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