BOHOL has been selected as a site to trial the local takeover of services formerly carried out by the National Government in preparation for the implementation of the Supreme Court’s Mandanas ruling, which ordered an increase in local governments’ share of the National Government’s revenue starting next year.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said the initial devolution of services will come in the form of Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES) program, for which Bohol was chosen as a “model.”

The National Government is shedding services in response to the Mandanas ruling, and is hoping that newly cashed-up local government units (LGUs) pick up the slack.

Mr. Dar said in a statement Tuesday: “We would like to see more LGUs investing in agriculture and fishery projects that would produce traditional as well as emerging products that enjoy comparative advantage.”

The DA, citing the Department of Budget and Management, said the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of LGUs, representing their share of National Government revenue, is set to increase by P234.4 billion to P1.8 trillion in 2022.

Mr. Dar also confirmed that the DA has sent Malacañang a draft executive order to institutionalize PAFES next year for all provinces. 

“With the additional IRA, LGUs could implement the PAFES in partnership with the DA, to significantly boost the delivery of devolved functions and better perform their role as the country’s food security czars,” Mr. Dar said.

He said Bohol was selected because Governor Arthur C. Yap has aligned the province’s priority agriculture and fishery programs with the DA’s own plans.

“If all provinces are like Bohol, the improvement of the agriculture sector in every province would be quicker,” Mr. Dar said.

According to Mr. Yap, P588.8 million has been allotted for programs that cover rice, corn, root crops, coconut, milkfish, tilapia, seaweeds, dairy, native chicken, swine, and farm-to-market roads.

Mr. Dar said the DA will act favorably towards Mr. Yap’s request for an additional P976 million for farm and fishery projects, and P1.4 billion for farm-to-market roads.

“Agriculture is too important to be left alone with the DA. The DA must only do the steering. LGUs must do the rowing so that the provinces will be food secure. There must be a sense of partnership that must be nurtured between DA and the LGUs,” Mr. Dar said.  

“Several provinces are also taking the initiative by investing much of their budgets on agriculture. These include Isabela, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Quirino, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cebu, and Marinduque, among others,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave