The Agricultural and Fishery Councils (AFCs) from the Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) unanimously appealed to formalize and secure the link between the local government units (LGUs) and AFCs for their involvement in the development of the agri-fishery development processes.

The call was raised during the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) 2023 Mindanao B Participatory Performance Review and Planning Workshop on October 4 to 6, 2023 in Davao City.

More than 50 AFC officers from the regional and provincial level, Regional AFC (RAFC) Executive Officers, RAFC Coordinators, regional budget officers and accountants, and Bids and Awards Committee representatives convened for the planning workshop to gather broader, more diverse perspectives in creating innovative and gender-responsive interventions to achieve PCAF and its consultative bodies intended outcomes.

However, the AFCs from the different regions shared the same sentiments on the limited involvement of the AFCs in participatory local governance due to the lack of recognition from the LGUs and local chief executives (LCEs).

The LGUs and LCEs are likewise not aware of the AFC’s roles and functions, making it hard for the AFCs to join the development processes such as planning,  budgeting, and monitoring and tracking of DA-funded programs and projects in their respective areas.

“In Davao Region, na-aappreciate namin ang mga AFCs kasi maganda ang partnership namin sa kanila sa DA. Naririnig namin ang kanilang feedbacks and they are really helpful to the Department of Agriculture. Una, during the planning, napapagaan ang  aming trabaho dahil partner namin sila.” said DA Regional Field Office IX Regional Technical Director Marila Corpuz.

Dir. Corpuz also emphasized that they are supporting the AFCs because they know what is going on the ground and their suggestions would really help the farmers and fishers.

On the other hand, PCAF, through the Partnership Development Division (PDD), assured the AFCs that they are doing their best to institutionalize the linkage between the LGUs and AFCs through a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and DA Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) that calls for the extension of full support to the AFCs as private sector partners in the implementation of agricultural development policies, plans and programs.

“The JMC is PCAF’s commitment to our AFCs and our answer to your concerns on your respective LGU’s lack of recognition. We are in the process of approval of this JMC and hopefully, before the end of the year, mapirmahan na ito. Once this is signed, we will supply you and all the LGUs with a copy, said PDD Chief Melinda Quiñones.

On the recommendation to advocate instead for an Executive Order (EO) signed by the President, the JMC is seen as a more pragmatic option. The JMC could serve as the anchor for the eventual issuance of an EO, offering a robust legal foundation.

Aside from this, the AFCs also discussed the fund liquidation and utilization per region. The invited regional budget officers and accountants clarified and settled their concerns with the PCAF Accounting and Budget Section Chiefs and representatives.

As part of the workshop, the AFCs also developed innovative strategies and approaches for implementing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Plan and Budget of PCAF. Each region also recommended new activities and initiatives that could enhance the agency’s operations. The recommendations will be considered in the crafting of PCAF’s FY 2025 Plan and Budget Proposal.

As part of the activity, PCAF OIC Deputy Executive Director Cyril Soliaban conducted an orientation on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for AFC productivity, which explored the use of AI models in drafting policy resolutions.

“Natutuwa akong malaman na meron palang mga tool like AI para matulungan ang mga AFCs sa paggawa ng mga policy resolutions at recommendations,” said PAFC Coordinator James Arly Danac after the hands-on activity.| Jezebel Campaniel