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Meet the Administrator

 

EDGARDO DISINI ZARAGOZA: NTA's Administrator of Reforms

Barely a year into office as administrator of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), Edgardo Disini Zaragoza has already instituted meaningful reforms in the country's 24-year old tobacco regulatory agency.

These reforms, although difficult to quantify in terms of tobacco quantity and quality, directly impact on the economic conditions and quality of life of farmers consistent with NTA's mandate.

For one, the agency has set higher floor prices for various types of tobacco being sold to leaf traders beginning crop season 2011. This would result in a more standardized and reasonable pricing for tobacco products, and thereby leading to more profits directly enjoyed by the farmers.

  • Also before year-end, the NTA, through its Board of Directors and the support of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, adopted a measure introduced by Administrator Zaragoza that slashed by half the interest rates on production cost and loans normally being availed of by tobacco farmers at the start of production season.

  • Again, this measure has a direct impact on farmers' productivity and profitability.

  • Soon, the agency is expected to take on an active role in petitioning the national government to consider the plight of the country's over 30,000 tobacco farmers in light of global threats and trends pertaining to cigarette sale.

  • With the adoption of such long-lasting and meaningful reforms in the industry, one could not help but wonder about the character, the perspectives, and philosophies of the people responsible in running the regulatory agency.

  • And like any government agency, the success of a program or project is dependent upon the character and "political will" of persons at the helm of power; and the NTA is no exception.
  • Activist roots, corporate savvy

  • Administrator Zaragoza is a native of flue-cured Virginia tobacco country of Narvacan in Ilocos Sur.

  • A product of the public elementary and high school system as a consistent honor student, he capped his scholastic achievements by pursuing an accountancy course and completing his MBA at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. "I'm an FQS veteran," he admits, referring to an era in the country's history from the late 1960's to the early 1970's called the First Quarter Storm. The period was characterized by student activism and militancy against the government under the late Philippine strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos.

  • Shortly after graduation, and armed with a government license as a Certified Public Accountant, he spent 15 years in the private sector as a bank manager, comptroller, systems/management/financial analyst, and auditor.

  • His strong corporate background would serve him well as a tobacco leaf trader and vice president of the Ilocos Sur Tobacco Trading Center Association. Little did he know that several years later, his perspective on the tobacco industry would be put to better use as administrator of the country's tobacco regulation agency.
  • Public service beckons

  • Meantime, the call for public service seemed too hard to resist. It was in 1988 when he decided to serve as municipal mayor of his hometown, Narvacan. For the ten years that followed, his constituents re-elected Zaragoza as their local chief executive of choice for leading the town to become one of the most united, progressive, and peaceful municipalities in a province popular for its divisive (and even deadly) brand of local politics.

  • He improved and concreted almost 85 percent of farm-to-market roads in the town's 34 barangays. Infrastructure facilities like bridges, irrigation canals, diversion dams, multi-purpose drying pavements, and small farm reservoirs were built under his watch. Farm equipment and machineries were also put in place to support rice, corn, and other agricultural products, side by side with livestock programs and technology transfer.

  • His efforts were recognized by the national government when he was awarded as a Hall of Fame Awardee for the Most Outstanding Mayor of Region I by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 1994 after he won the regional award for three consecutive terms from 1990 to 1993.

  • The Philippine Assistance on Community Development, chaired by Sen. Ernesto Maceda, earlier took cognizance of Zaragoza's brand of public service by awarding him as the Most Outstanding Mayor of the Philippines in 1991.

  • After trying out as a provincial board member for a three-year term in 2001, Zaragoza realized his heart was not primed as a local legislator, so he reverted back as a local chief executive in 2004 serving until 2010.
  • Laurels and family

  • His efficiency as an executive is manifest in his social and civic commitments. He was national director of the Rural Bank Association of the Philippines in 1998; president of the Ilocos Sur Chapter of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) in 1998 to 2002; president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Ilocos Sur Chapter from 2007 to 2010; and concurrently the League's national spokesperson for the same period. His other involvements also include the Philippine Jaycees and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

  • All the laurels in any profession would not matter without a strong foundation, Administrator Zaragoza admits. And family has always been his wellspring of inspiration, strength, and direction.

  • Happily married to the former Charito Singson, the couple is blessed with a son, Zuriel, who is presently the Mayor of their hometown. From all indications, the son is following in the father's footsteps and beyond.

  • The Zaragozas were also blessed with four daughters: Fayinna Pilar; Wyanet Charmaine, who took after her father's passion for public service by becoming a lawyer and concurrently serving as an elected Board Member of the Ilocos Sur provincial government; Zuleika Shammara; and Anicka Nicolai.

  • With the wealth of experience and wisdom gathered from his various endeavours, coupled with the solid foundation provided by a happy family, there is no doubt Administrator Zaragoza can hurdle the daunting challenge of steering the country's tobacco regulatory agency to greater heights.
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