A nat’l food production program

Early this month, President Duterte said the Philippines cannot rely forever on Thailand and Vietnam for its food security, specifically its supply of rice. We import hundreds of thousands of kilos of rice from these two countries every year to ensure that we have enough of this staple food of Filipinos, he said. He was speaking at the opening of the Agrilink-Foodlink-Aqualink 2017 trade show in Pasay City.

The previous administration had launched a long-range plan for rice self-sufficiency but never achieved that goal. At the start of the Duterte administration, new Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol drew up a new program, focusing on fast transfer of technology, easy access to financing, and more efficient marketing.

The President, in his speech, noted that vast tracts of land in the country are now being used to plant export crops like banana and pineapple. “We have to rationalize things,” he said. “We have to reserve enough land where we can plant for our own food supply.”

Our concern with food production are in line with an international movement launched by the United Nations through its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), after it found that world food hunger is “on the rise for the first time in over a decade,” affecting 815 million people—11 percent of the global population.

Food insecurity is one of the root causes of migration in the world today, FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said at the official ceremony for World Food Day last October 16 at FAO‘s headquarters in Rome, Italy. Pope Francis delivered the keynote address at the World Food Day rites, in which he linked wars and climate change to world hunger which, in turn, is a root cause of migration today.

War has also been a factor in the Philippines’ failure thus far to achieve food security, President Duterte said at the Agrilink-Foodlink-Aqualink trade show. Mindanao, he said, holds the greatest promise for food security for the country, with its fertile lands and excellent climate. The problem, he said, are lawless elements which pose serious security problems. Now that the fighting in Marawi is winding down, he said, he will push for the development of Lake Lanao which, he said, can feed the nation with its fish and vegetables.

We welcome President Duterte’s expression of interest in food production for the country – in rice production so that we will cease our dependence on imports from Thailand and Vietnam, in reserving more lands for food crops for our own people rather than for export crops, and in developing Mindanao whose Lake Lanao alone can supply fish for the entire country.

This first year of the Duterte administration has been largely devoted to rooting out the drug menace in the country and corruption in the government. We will soon embark on a massive infrastructure program that will provide employment while building roads and bridges, seaports and airports, and other basic needs of national development. We now look forward to a food production program that will meet this most basic need of the Filipino people.

Source: The Manila Bulletin. October 22, 2017. Philippines