Does the Department of Agriculture (DA) have only three months left to stay in Manila? This is the question of employees at the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), now that there is a specific directive from the President herself to hasten the transfer of the DA office from Quezon City to Ilagan City, Isabela (approximately 397 kilometers north of Metro Manila).
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008
Does the Department of Agriculture (DA) have only three months left to stay in Manila?
This is the question of employees at the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), now that there is a specific directive from the President herself to hasten the transfer of the DA office from Quezon City to Ilagan City, Isabela (approximately 397 kilometers north of Metro Manila).
Jovencio M. Cagulada, president of the Department of Agriculture Employees Association (DA-EA) disclosed to Bulatlat that there was a letter from Presidential Adviser for New Government Centers Sec. Silvestre Bello III, reminding Agriculture Sec. Arthur C. Yap to prioritize and effectively operate the DA Central Office in Isabela – from an initial satellite level to a full regular office by January 2009.
Prior this, Bello reported to the President about the successful launching of the DA Central Office in Ilagan City last June 12.
The DA Central Office, according to official reports, will be housed in a place situated in Ilagan City’s old capitol building.
“Actually, there is already an unsigned memorandum of agreement between the provincial government of Isabela and the DA management,” he said.
Renewal of strategic Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle
Bello said that the relocation of DA in Isabela renews the strategic sole of Cagayan Valley in the Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle.
Bello said that the transfer is Mrs. Arroyo’s “deliberate commitment to bring about a new government center to Cagayan Valley (which is) among the remaining agricultural frontiers in the country.”
He also added that the transfer of DA central office to the Cagayan Valley region is based on “valuable considerations”, especially agricultural production of both rice and corn in the region. He also said the Isabela provincial government supports the transfer by implementing vital agriculture projects as its flagship program.
A welcome move—governor, archbishop
Gov. Grace Padaca welcomed the impending DA transfer to Isabela, saying she is thankful that the Chief Executive chose her province.
She also said she believes that the new home of DA in Isabela could be a big boost to the agricultural productivity of the province.
Meanwhile, Bayombong Archbishop, the Most Rev. Ramon Villena, D.D., issued an official statement saying that the transfer of the DA central office to the Isabela province is a big boost to the country’s food production program. Villena, the chairman of the Regional Development Council in Region II, said that he is happy that the President has transferred the DA central office to his region.
According to the prelate, the transfer of the DA office to Isabela and the establishment of ports in Region II are welcome developments, especially since the region is considered as one of the main food baskets in Luzon.
The Archbishop is hopeful that the transfer would bring in new technologies in agriculture and fisheries that would help increase the food production not only of Region II but of neighboring food-producing provinces as well.
But this “strategic move” by the government, according to the DA employees, is a foul move.
Not favorable to poor employees
“This is an unwelcome development for the employees who will be affected by the transfer,” Cagulada said.
“Never have we been given information, much less consulted regarding the planned transfer despite the fact that we, the rank-and-file employees of the DA, are the ones who are to be adversely affected,” he said.
The DA employees fear not only separation from their families but also losing their jobs because of the transfer.
A resolution, which was signed by the Executive Board of the DA-EA and adopted by the members of the DA-EA, stated that the transfer would financially dislocate them, would have adverse psychological effects on them and their families, and would result in salary diminution.
“This (the transfer) virtually terminates our employment in the Department for most of us find it practically impossible to cope financially and psychologically with the necessities. This is an attack on our security of tenure as regular employees of the Department,” Cagulada said.
Besides these, according to Cagulada, the move by Malacañang and by the DA management is a clear violation of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations for their plantilla positions identify Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City, specifically as the place of work.
Agency’s transfer means massive layoffs
The President’s directive to transfer the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Davao City, Department of Tourism (DOT) to Cebu and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) somewhere outside Metro Manila, purportedly to be able to “perform well,” would result in more retrenchments of government employees, said the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).
Lori Bangalisan, president of the Courage-affiliated Bureau of Animal Industry Employees Association, believes that the transfer would affect not only 800 employees at the OSEC but also those in the attached and line agencies of the DA, estimated at around 8,000. (Bulatlat.com)