Mandanas ruling to boost agri extension in PH
During the past months, government circles have been rife with talks about the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling in 2022. What is this ruling? Way back in 2013, then Representatives Hermilando Mandanas (now Batangas governor) and Enrique Garcia of Bataan questioned the manner in which the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local government units (LGUs) was computed. The two solons asked the Supreme Court to mandate the national government to compute the IRA based on all taxes, encompassing national internal revenue taxes and customs duties.
On July 2018, the Supreme Court decided that, indeed, the just share of LGUs is not limited to national internal revenue taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue but includes collections (customs duties) by the Bureau of Customs. This is expected to increase the IRA of LGUs to P234.4 billion in 2022, significantly boosting the delivery of devolved functions. Termed as “full devolution,” the ruling mandates that devolved functions must be permanently taken out from national government agencies, and empowers LGUs to assume these.
In 1991, the Local Government Code mandated the devolution of basic services to LGUs. This was anchored on the premise that LGUs are in a better position to address the needs of their constituents and can therefore deliver better services. One of these was agriculture and fisheries extension.
Over the years, however, due mainly to funding constraints, the devolution of agricultural extension did not yield the desired result, particularly in helping to significantly improve the livelihoods of smallholders. Many municipal LGUs did not appoint qualified extension workers and assigned tasks unrelated to agriculture and fisheries. Moreover, municipalities are too small to have economies of scale and have difficulties in planning and implementing big extension programs.
To address this challenge, a group of senior scientists from Los Baños led by National Scientist Emil Javier, through the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines and the Asia Rice Foundation, advocated that provinces be the focal point of extension services. In doing this, the two groups said that provinces: (1) have economies of scale (not too small like municipalities or too large like the regions) for agricultural development programs; (2) are closer to the realities of smallholder farmers and fisherfolk, and hence can better address their needs and problems; (3) have the resources for co-financing arrangements with the Department of Agriculture (DA) in program implementation; and (4) are more in a position to mobilize public-private-people partners and can co-invest with the national government in agricultural development.
After several iterations and initial piloting in Ilocos Norte in 2018, this strategic initiative evolved into what is now called Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES). Early this year, the DA, in pursuit of its modernization and agro-industrialization thrusts, mainstreamed PAFES as the modality of implementing banner programs in the provinces. To jumpstart this process, the DA’s Regional Field Offices were instructed to select at least one province in their respective regions as pilots in implementing PAFES. In line with this, 16 provinces have been selected by the DA as pilot areas.
Anticipating the full implementation of the Mandanas ruling, DA Secretary William Dar declared PAFES as the institutional arrangement in integrating the agency’s various programs in the provinces. Through strong research-extension-farmer/fisherfolk linkages, PAFES aims to further boost the capability of LGUs to implement agriculture and fisheries extension services integrating multiple programs with the provinces as the hub of operations. Led by the governor and following a pluralistic modality, PAFES is being pursued through vigorous partnerships among LGUs, DA agencies, state universities and colleges (SUCs), the private sector, and farmers-fisherfolk organizations.
Recently, Governor Mandanas led the virtual signing of a memorandum of agreement with the DA and local partners establishing PAFES in Batangas. This will surely become a template in implementing the Supreme Court ruling, ushering in a new era of province-led agriculture and fisheries extension in the Philippines.
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Dr. Rex L. Navarro is a member of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines, Asia Rice Foundatio, and DA Technical Working Group of Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Systems.
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