President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vowed to increase the country’s food production when he takes over as concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
Marcos said that the rice export ban currently imposed by Thailand and Vietnam, the Philippines’ main sources of imported rice, has left the country with no choice but to increase its own production of the key staple.
“You may have noted that Thailand [and] Vietnam for example… our main sources of imported rice, have decided to ban rice exports, at least for now. So, we have to compensate for that by hopefully increasing production here in the Philippines,” Marcos said.
“There are many priorities that we have to attend to simultaneously, first will be to try to increase production as we come to the planting period, the harvest period after the rainy season, during, before, and after the rainy season. Hopefully, we can counteract some of the increases in prices,” he added.
Marcos announced Monday that he would be assuming the portfolio of secretary of Agriculture due to the severity of the looming food crisis and the continued increase in food prices.
He added that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected the country’s food supply “in a very serious way.”
Marcos said he would restructure the department to make it more responsive to the current global situation in terms of food supply.
He added this would include the return of agencies and organizations under the department, such as the National Food Authority (NFA), the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI), and Kadiwa, to their original mandates and functions.
“Many of the agencies have changed their functions over the years and maybe it’s time to return them [to their original purpose],” he said.
Marcos said there may be a need to review the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund created by Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.
He said in view of the need to increase local food production, that fund should probably be increased.
“When we see the accounting for rice tariffication, the P10-billion is sometimes unspent so it can still be used,” he added.
Under the law, P10 billion will be appropriated every year for the next six years for programs in rice-producing areas, such as procurement of rice farm machinery like tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, irrigation pumps, small solar irrigation, reapers, driers, and millers.
Other programs also provided for are rice seed development, propagation, and promotion; expanded rice credit assistance; and rice extension services.
Senators welcomed Marcos’s move to assume the Agriculture portfolio, saying it shows his commitment to averting a food crisis.
“It may not be the end-all and be-all solution to all the problems besetting the agricultural sector including the food crisis, but for sure decision making will be really fast and solutions can be undertaken and implemented right away because orders will directly come from the President,” incoming Senator JV. Ejercito said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said it’s the president’s prerogative since all Cabinet secretaries are his agents anyway.
“This means food and agriculture are top priorities of President-elect BBM especially now that the prices of foods are continuously increasing even in the global market,” he said, referring to the President by his campaign initials.
Senator Francis Escudero noted that by taking this portfolio, Marcos can cut a lot of red tape and it automatically puts. at the disposal of the Department and the Agriculture all the resources of the government.
Also on Tuesday, the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP) party-list said Marcos should launch a food security summit to address importation and smuggling problems.
The group’s first nominee, Nicanor Briones, said he disagreed with the current administration’s policy of import liberalization and urged the DA to instead focus on the root cause of food insecurity.