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Food security should be topmost PBBM priority

/ 07:14 AM June 14, 2022

The future is looking dire and very bleak. Inflation continue sto rise from 4.9 in April to 5.4 percent in May. The peso dollar exchange rate just broke the P53 to 1 barrier while petroleum prices, such as diesel, the country’s main workhorse fuel is nearing P100 per liter. Globally, economic headwinds continue to worsen and the world supply chain is disrupted, exacerbated by the prolonged Russia Ukraine war while reeling from the crippling pandemic. America’s inflation is nearing 9 percent and in danger of stagflation or recession while China’s economy slows down on COVID and several issues and ASEAN countries are suffering.

Vietnam and Thailand both declared they will limit export of their rice produce and increase their prices, while Indonesia has already stopped export of palm oil. On our end, the agriculture sector is barely gasping , while importation and dependency from foreign food suppliers is becoming an accepted norm. The Department of Trade and Industry hiked suggested retail prices of sardines, instant noodles and processed milk between five to ten percent because of rising cost of inputs.

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It is now clear as broad daylight that a serious global food crisis is looming and every Filipino family’s food on the table is now at risk. The incoming BBM administration must quickly act and implement drastic moves so that all will survive this. Call it food self-sufficiency, food sovereignty, or food security, they are now the most important issues today.

But first things first, food security must be an integral part of of both economy and security clusters of the new administration. Our economic managers should abandon their previous policies of “forgetting” agriculture in the yearly national budget. For this year, they allotted only P80-B which is just 2 percent of total, compared to 4 percent or P1-trillion pesos in Thailand and a larger 6 percent in Vietnam.

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It is high time we embark on massive maximization and modernization of agricultural resources, from nationwide land use to completely eliminating smuggling of foreign products.

I am somehow elated on recent PBBM pronouncements that he will look into the value chain of our agriculture from production , processing and finally retail to consumers. Incoming National Security adviser Prof. Clarita Carlos says she will bring the key concept of “human security” which includes food, economic, health, community and personal in the concept of national security.

There are now talks of reviving the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) and the Kadiwa food distribution system. Government must have enough funds to move all products of farmers and fisherfolk all around the country, making them available and at cheaper prices to the end users. It is appalling that vegetable harvests and fish catches of farmers are rotting because of lack of post-harvest facilities and transportation. With soaring diesel prices, government should take charge of better farmgate prices and bringing farmer produce to food terminals in strategic areas.

Former DA sec. Manny Piñol says “food repositioning” is a major key here. A 5 peso vegetable from Mindanao can sell as high as 25 pesos in Metro Manila. A kilo of fresh fish from Tawi-Tawi are worth hundreds of pesos in Luzon and Visayas. But this does not happen because of low agricultural budget. Piñol says our farmers and fisherfolk are really really need government help.

And to do that , our economic managers should discontinue ths decades old non-priority on agriculture. If we had a successful BUILD,BUILD, BUILD, these past six years, it is time we implement FOOD,FOOD,FOOD and harness all our produces from our vast farms and seas.

It is both ridiculous and stupid that government’s dole out program PANTAWID PAMILYA has a larger budget of P82-B , than the Department of Agriculture of P80-B? Are we teaching our poor people of being lazy and wait for their monthly envelopes and not being productive planters or fishers?

On the issue of smuggling, not just foreign agricultural products , but also illegal drugs, it is high time to bring back international pre-shipment inspections, such as Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) , implemented decades ago at the Bureau of Customs. This means all shipments, commercial importations including consumer goods undergo certification, testing, verification and inspection at the originating port before they arrive in the country. We pay SGS billions of pesos from their services but it is a lot cheaper than the rampant smuggling costs they eradicate. But again, this is an issue of political will by PBBM and his economic managers if they really want to put a stop on all kinds of smuggling.

We are 114 million Filipinos now and still growing. It is time that everyone, from barangay to the highest corridors of power, participate and help our nation’s FOOD REVOLUTION and ensure our basic survival in this dangerous global headwinds for our next generations.

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TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, column, food security, Sharp Edges
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