June 21, 2024

THE PROMISE OF BRINGING FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR ALL

The decision of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to take on the portfolio of the agriculture secretary for now is proof that food security is one of the top priorities of his administration.
He has vowed to address the looming food crisis affecting the more than 100 million Filipinos.
With the incoming President in command of the country’s agriculture department, huge funding for agriculture-related priority programs and projects will most likely be approved by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee composed of the country’s financial managers who determine how much budget will be allocated for each department.
This means that funding for the programs and projects of the Department of Agriculture will not be much of a concern for the Marcos government. But Filipinos have an important role to play — to become more vigilant in ensuring these funds are spent wisely.
We agree with the observation that national concerns such as the looming food crisis will not be addressed in the immediate future, even with the president taking on the reins of the DA. But we can give him the benefit of the doubt as he knows the gravity of the situation and he could have learned from the successful programs and projects towards food security taken on by his father during his stint as president.
The President’s promise to lower the price of rice to P20 a kilo could be one of the deciding factors on his decision to lead the agriculture department as it will be a herculean task to lower the prices of commercial rice in the wake of the food crisis towards the end of this year and beyond due to several factors as projected by experts and some current DA officials.
But one of the more pressing concerns is how the President will treat the Rice Tariffication Law that removed restrictions on importation in favor of higher tariffs to control rice coming in from other countries. This has hurt our farmers and millions of Filipinos during the Duterte government.
Other factors that threaten food security are the Covid-19 pandemic, rising fuel prices, and the Russian-led war on Ukraine.
We also project a possible makeover at the Bureau of Customs and other concerned agencies should the Marcos administration not urgently address the smuggling of rice, vegetables and other crops. If left unabated, affected farmers can be expected to put their acts together in calling for his administration to put a stop to the smuggling problem.
Back home, close to 400,000 farmers in the Cordillera, especially those in vegetable growing towns in Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao are greatly affected by the smuggling of temperate vegetables from China, despite efforts by the Bureau of Customs and other concerned agencies to curb this illegal practice which is tantamount to economic sabotage.
We repeat. The unabated smuggling of goods and importation of various agricultural products and goods will continue to bring havoc to the country’s agriculture sector should the Marcos government not make good his campaign promise and not exert enough effort to curb the web of corruption and smuggling cartels that threaten the country’s food security.
It would also be interesting to look into how the Marcos government will entertain the proposed 10-year agricultural development plan for the Cordillera worth P75.5 billion submitted by DA-CAR to the next administration, prepared on the premise that this region plays an important role in the country’s food chain being the primary producer of temperate vegetables.
Given the fragile national food situation and with the incoming president in command of the agriculture sector, it is our wish that the Philippines will be able to feed the more than 100 million Filipinos and that food security can be sustained until the next administration.
This can be achieved if Marcos Jr. imbibes the same strong political will displayed by his father.