Human security

Food security should be the top priority of the PBBM

The future looks bleak and very bleak. Inflation continues to rise, rising from 4.9% in April to 5.4% in May. The dollar peso exchange rate has just broken through the P53 barrier at 1 as oil prices, such as diesel, the country’s main fuel, approach P100 per litre. Globally, economic headwinds continue to worsen and the global supply chain is disrupted, exacerbated by the protracted war between Russia and Ukraine, reeling from the crippling pandemic. US inflation is approaching 9% and threatened with stagflation or recession while China’s economy is slowing due to COVID and several issues and ASEAN countries are suffering.

Vietnam and Thailand have both said they will limit the export of their rice and raise prices, while Indonesia has already halted the export of palm oil. On our side, the agricultural sector is barely out of breath, while importation and dependence on foreign food suppliers are becoming an accepted norm. The Department of Trade and Industry has raised suggested retail prices for sardines, instant noodles and processed milk by five to ten percent due to rising input costs.

It is now clear in broad daylight that a serious global food crisis is looming and that every Filipino family’s food on the table is now in jeopardy. The incoming BBM administration must act quickly and implement drastic measures for all to survive this. Call it food self-sufficiency, food sovereignty or food security, these are now the most important issues today.

But first, food security must be an integral part of the economy and security clusters of the new administration. Our economic managers should abandon their previous policies of “forgetting” agriculture from the annual national budget. For this year, they allocated only P80-B, only 2% of the total, compared to 4% or 1,000 billion pesos in Thailand and 6% in Vietnam.

It is high time we embarked on the massive maximization and modernization of agricultural resources, from nationwide land use to the complete elimination of smuggling of foreign products.

I’m kind of thrilled with recent statements from PBBM that it will be looking at the value chain of our agriculture, from production, to processing, and finally retailing to consumers. New national security adviser Prof Clarita Carlos said she would bring the key concept of ‘human security’ which includes food, economy, health, community and people into the concept of national security .

There is now talk of reviving Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) and Kadiwa’s food distribution system. The government must have enough funds to move all products from farmers and fishers across the country, making them available and at cheaper prices for end users. It is appalling that vegetable crops and farmers’ fish catches are rotting due to the lack of post-harvest and transport facilities. With soaring diesel prices, the government should support better farmgate prices and bring farmers’ 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 for up to 25 pesos in Metro Manila. A kilo of fresh Tawi-Tawi fish is worth hundreds of pesos in Luzon and Visayas. But this is not happening because of the low agricultural budget. Piñol says our farmers and fishermen really need help from the government.

And to do that, our economic managers should end this decades-old non-priority on agriculture. If we’ve had a successful BUILD, BUILD, BUILD for the past six years, it’s time to implement FOOD, FOOD, FOOD and harness all of our produce from our vast farms and seas.

It is both ridiculous and stupid that the government distribution program PANTAWID PAMILYA has a larger budget of P82-B than the Ministry of Agriculture of P80-B? Are we teaching our poor people to be lazy and wait for their monthly envelopes and not be productive planters or fishers?

On the issue of smuggling, not only of foreign agricultural products, but also of illegal drugs, it is high time to restore the international pre-shipment inspections, such as the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), put in place decades ago. decades at the Customs Office. This means that all shipments, commercial imports, including consumer goods, are certified, tested, verified and inspected at the port of origin before arriving in the country. We pay billions of pesos to SGS through their services, but it’s far less than the rampant smuggling costs they eliminate. But again, it’s a matter of political will on the part of PBBM and its economic managers if they really want to put a stop to all kinds of smuggling.

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

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