Agriculture Secretary Reshuffles Undersecretaries

AGRICULTURE Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel. Photo from Department of Agriculture
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The Department of Agriculture (DA) recently underwent a significant reshuffle, with Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel reassigning key officials within the agency. This move aims to enhance efficiency and align the department’s operations with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s directives.

One of the notable changes includes the appointment of Director U-Nichols Manalo as the new director of the national rice program, taking over from Senior Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian. Additionally, Sebastian has been appointed as a member of the Secretary’s Technical Advisory Group. This reshuffling highlights the importance of effective leadership in driving the nation’s agricultural development.

It is worth noting that Sebastian previously served as the undersecretary for the Rice Industry Development Program. He played a crucial role in various agricultural initiatives, such as heading the steering committee of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund Program and serving on the boards of the Philippine Rice Research Institute, the National Food Authority Council, the National Irrigation Administration, and the International Rice Research Institute. Now, these responsibilities will be assumed by Director Manalo, who will concurrently hold the positions of Director 4, officer in charge (OIC)-director of field operations service, and director of the national corn program.

Another significant change involves Undersecretary for Operations Roger Navarro, who will take on the role of OIC-Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development, OIC-national project director of the Philippine Rural Development Project, and OIC-Assistant Secretary for Operations. These appointments demonstrate the department’s commitment to optimizing its resources and ensuring effective implementation of agricultural programs.

Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla has been assigned to oversee the operations and coordinate programs of the DA bureaus. Previously responsible for the policy, planning, and regulations of the department, Sombilla’s new role reflects the department’s focus on streamlining operations and fostering collaboration among its various units.

Undersecretary Drusila Esther Bayate, who previously served as the undersecretary for fisheries, has been appointed as the Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and Regulations. This change aims to leverage Bayate’s expertise in shaping policies and regulations to support the growth of the agricultural sector.

Thelma Tolentino, the Chief Administrative Officer and OIC director for financial and management service, has been appointed as the undersecretary-designate for Finance. This appointment underscores the department’s commitment to prudent financial management and accountability.

Undersecretary Agnes Catherine Miranda will now oversee the department’s attached agencies, bureaus, and corporations. Her role will be pivotal in ensuring effective coordination and collaboration among these entities to achieve the department’s goals.

Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa will continue to serve as the full-time spokesman of the DA, providing timely and accurate information to the public regarding the department’s initiatives and policies.

In addition to the personnel changes, Secretary Laurel has also directed the creation of a team dedicated to addressing concerns, facilitating requests, and managing submissions from the DA to the Office of the President-Presidential Management Staff (OP-PMS). This team will play a crucial role in ensuring efficient communication and coordination between the DA and the OP-PMS.

Furthermore, Secretary Laurel appointed Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra as the head of the DA’s Consumer Affairs, assuming the role previously held by former DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista. This appointment highlights the department’s commitment to consumer welfare and ensuring that their concerns are heard and addressed.

Secretary Laurel also designated Alvin John Balagbag as the head executive assistant and chief of staff, replacing Rex Estoperez. This change aims to enhance the department’s administrative efficiency and support the smooth functioning of its operations.

Lastly, Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, who served as the Agriculture chief under Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has opted to retire after more than a year of his appointment in August 2022. His retirement marks the end of a distinguished career dedicated to advancing the agricultural sector.

The DA acknowledges that further changes in the department’s leadership are likely due to the temporary nature of certain appointments and the additional workload placed on certain officials. These changes reflect the department’s commitment to adaptability and ensuring that the right individuals are in the right positions to drive agricultural development in the country.

In conclusion, the recent reshuffle within the Department of Agriculture signifies Secretary Laurel’s determination to streamline operations, optimize resources, and align the department’s efforts with President Marcos Jr.’s vision. These changes aim to enhance efficiency, foster collaboration, and ultimately contribute to the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector in the Philippines.

Source: The Manila Times

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