By Madelaine B. Miraflor

World Bank (WB) is open to provide the Philippine agriculture sector an additional loan of up to US$840 million, or around P44 billion, within the next few months to support the three agendas of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which has recently transitioned into new leadership.

WILLIAM DAR2 - WB offers $840-M new loan to PH for agriculture

Newly appointed acting Agriculture Secretary Dr. William D. Dar . (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU, MB Photo)

More than a week into office, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he recently met with a representative of World Bank, who said the bank was interested to release additional funding for the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

“PRDP has a budget of almost US$760 million. There is a plan for World Bank to add fund. We will work it out in the next two weeks or so for the additional loan of US$240 million for PRDP,” Dar said on Tuesday.

Dar said that another potential project of DA that the World Bank could fund is the Provincial Agricultural Extension System, which is the provision of farm interventions in the provinces.

“We are planning to get a US$500-million loan for that,” Dar said, adding that DA may tap a separate loan of US$100 million from World Bank to fund the projects and programs in Mindanao alone.

Launched in 2013, PRDP is the largest WB-funded project in the country. It began as a farm-to-market road (FMR) initiative and was eventually expanded to cover several livelihood components meant to improve the lives of agriculture workers in the country.

Last year, the project was injected with additional fund worth P8 billion on top of its existing budget of P27 billion, which had already ran out.

On Tuesday, incoming Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Emmanuel Piñol formally turned over the leadership at DA to Dar.

During his last speech as DA Secretary, Piñol said that as MinDA chief, he will support Dar’s programs in Mindanao.

Dar, as a response, said he will pour in more resources and start more projects in the region.

Last week, Dar assured there wouldn’t be major reshuffle at the DA, but that’s only if these officials — most of which were personally appointed by Piñol — can prove they are worthy of their positions.

According to him, he will give it some time before he decides whether the agency needs to get rid of some of its “non-performing officials”.

When Piñol took over the leadership at the DA three years ago, he brought along some people to help him run the agency. This includes Agriculture Undersecretary for High-Value Crops Evelyn Laviña, Undersecretary for Finance Francisco Villano, Assistant Secretary for Regulations and concurrent Assistant Secretary for Visayas Hansel Didulo, Assistant Secretary for Special Projects Lerey Panes, DA Director, Financial and Management Service Miriam Cornelio, among others.

Most of these officials hold positions that are co-terminus with Piñol, but they can be reappointed if Dar decides to keep them.

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