It’s commendable for President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to acknowledge that the country is facing food crisis and take it upon himself to personally tackle the problem.
Marcos said he will lead the Department of Agriculture, at least temporarily, when he assumes office on June 30 to allow himself to take immediate measures and make the department stronger in facing the looming crisis.
He makes it clear that the agri sector is on his government’s high priority.
No less than outgoing Secretary William Dar recognized and predicted a post-pandemic crisis in food production, not to mention the gruesome effects of the Russia-Ukraine war that caused monumental surge in fuel prices.
Dar however has to admit the Department’s multiple failures, especially in handling the farmers’ logistics concern during the onslaught of the pandemic when food became scarce due to lock down measures.
What about the record-high cost of pork and other meat products? Sugar?
Now Dar’s most recent pronouncement has been that the DA must also have “Build, Build, Build” projects similar to what had been done at the Department of Transportation and Department of Public Works and Highways.
The BBB, the centerpiece program of outgoing President Duterte, aimed to usher in the “Golden age of infrastructure towards Philippine economic development.”
Dar should have thought and fought for it during his assumption at DAR, not now when he is about to leave.
Mr. Marcos has a lot of work to do at the DA. Again, the government needs to just look at the basic problem. One economist said we have lots of food. The major problem was how to transport them to different parts of the country.
We used to have a lot of farmers, but the numbers diminished tremendously because farming has become a losing venture in terms of livelihood.
One major solution is the reactivation of our railroad system. In China, there are two sets of railroads.
There’s the modern railway for its bullet train and the other, the older road, for industrial use where agricultural and industrial products like metals and other raw materials enjoy unhampered cost-efficient transport.
It’s good that Duterte had the vision-and political will—to reactivate and widen our railway system. It’s up to the coming new administration to continue and maximize its use for a more efficient food production and distribution.
Having two different sets of railways for the Philippines may not be possible. The one we have now is enough to help food—as well as other products—be distributed properly to stakeholders and eventually to every Filipino family’s table.
The about-to-be finished Manila to Clark railroad should be continued to at least reach La Union, which is just below Benguet where highland vegetables are produced.
Then a system must be implemented to have these high-land products along with tropical vegetables, fish, and meat products from other parts of Luzon, be transported to Manila and other areas.
We get to save cost in fuel, personnel, and other necessary expenses.
The same can be replicated in the Visayas and Mindanao as we look forward to the time when our meat and farm produce are fresher and less expensive.