EXCLUSIVE: Finance chief tackles farm sector, BOL, Duterte's sexual abuse allegations vs priest

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Tuesday sat down with CNN Philippines for an interview where he aired his stance on some of the country's pressing issues, including the state of the agriculture sector, the establishment of a new Bangsamoro autonomous regional government in Mindanao, and the President's tirades against the Catholic Church.

Dominguez, who once served as Agriculture and Environment chief under the administration of the late former President Corazon Aquino, said it is a challenge to revive the country's farm sector.

READ: DOF chief sees challenge in boosting farm output

He added Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol is on point to improve the sector's performance.

"Growth of agriculture in the first three quarters of last year was one half of one percent. And quite frankly that dragged down our gross domestic product growth. Had that growth been 2 percent, which is based on the increase of our population, our growth would have been 6.4 percent instead of 6.2," Dominguez said.

"I think that Manny (Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol) is now focusing on making sure that production of agriculture is increasing because that's basically food and it is in demand... This is a challenge that needs to be met," he said.

He said there are dire repercussions of not meeting food demand of a growing population, affecting both domestic prices and foreign trade.

"We will have a serious problem because we will have to import food that we can otherwise grow and that will deplete our foreign exchange, that would not allow us to use that money to invest in the Build, Build, Build program or more productive activities," the Finance chief said.

BOL funds

Meanwhile, Dominguez flagged the need for a separate funding as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) edges closer to ratification.

"It will have to be budgeted. The legislation will have to budget the amount because it's in the law," he said.

"The people in the responsible area will have the responsibility to spend the money for the benefit of their area," Dominguez said, adding that he hoped the people will elect "forward-looking and dynamic executives" to lead them.

Duterte's sexual abuse allegations vs priest

On a personal note, the Finance Secretary also made a revelation. He backed President Rodrigo Duterte's sexual abuse allegations against a priest in a Jesuit school in Mindanao.

Dominguez, Duterte's childhood friend and classmate, said the President was not the only victim of a certain Mark Falvey at the Ateneo de Davao University in the past.

The Cabinet member said he understood Duterte's seemingly opposite approach of bringing the event up at every chance he gets.

"He is a guy who's always for fairness even when we were kids. There was a bully around, he will go after that bully. And I think he looked at this as something unfair where someone at a position of authority took advantage," he said.

"He really has this strong drive for fairness and justice, and for the underdog and it shows," the President's childhood friend added.

CNN Philippines is reaching out to the Ateneo de Davao for further comment about Falvey.

Catch the full interview on Wednesday, January 23, at 7 p.m., on CNN Philippines.

CNN Philippines' digital producers Luchi de Guzman and Robert Vergara contributed to this report.