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Piñol’s shining moment

BY: Johnny Dayang

From writing sports news to managing world-class boxers, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has now indeed gone a long way in his decisive management acumen that makes him unquestionably a no-nonsense Cabinet luminary.

Without perhaps intending to, Secretary Pinol recently projected his shining moment in how he managed the dreaded avian flu outbreak in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, the bane of many countries with booming poultry industries. He made an excruciatingly difficult decision to depopulate thousands of fowls and regulated the sale of chicken, duck and quail meat and eggs until the crisis is brought under control, no matter how unpopular the decision was.

As expected, the avian flu disclosure created a national urgency that compelled Piñol to temporarily ban the shipment of poultry products from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao. Needless to stress, the decision resulted in heavy losses for poultry farmers, particularly among those within the one-kilometer radius from the flu’s ground zero which also forced poultry players to bring down prices.

Piñol’s hands-on efforts to revive the vibrancy of the agriculture sector have for some time been unappreciated, given the headline-hogging scandals that have kept his department on crosshairs. In recent months, issues on the smuggling of garlic, salt, onions and meat triggered congressional inquiries, prompting him to order a deeper probe into the mechanisms used by importers to circumvent import regulations.

Amid doubts and errant perceptions, Piñol made very pivotal decisions to address crucial issues. Without delay, he cancelled the import permits granted to 43 importers and ordered a review of the phytosanitary and sanitary permits issued to derail suspected cartels.

In between, Pinol took time to return to his roots and distributed livelihood packages to calamity victims, boats to municipal fishermen, and seeds and tools to farmers. Regular field visits, consultations, and introducing new technologies also occupied his already tight schedules.

His decision to regulate the shipment of Luzon poultry products to other regions was a calculated risk since such action would draw adverse reactions from affected sectors. Allowing such shipments without tight scrutiny while the avian flu red flag was afloat would have been more devastating.

Losing P179 million a day is no joke for the poultry industry and the economy, but Piñol firmly gambled with the option for the greater good. The Agriculture leadership is decidedly in safe hands.