Scrap food importation, PBBM urged

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s vision of food self-sufficiency for the Philippines will only be possible if the government will get away from massive importation of fish, rice, pork, chicken and vegetable, producers said on Monday.

In a virtual press briefing on Monday by Tugon Kabuhayan, Asis Perez, former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director and convener of the food security and livelihood advocacy group, expressed confidence that the country can produce food supply that the Filipino population requires. This, he stressed, should start with ensuring that enough public and private support will be given to local food producers.

“If the President is serious about food self-sufficiency, it would be a game-changer. It would mean available and affordable Philippine-produced food. This is both a challenge and an opportunity to local food producers,” Perez said.

“With natural and human resources, technology and capital, food self-sufficiency is possible. What we do need from government is a policy environment that would make it possible,” he added.

In his inaugural speech, President Marcos, who has taken the portfolio of Agriculture secretary, said making the Philippines self-sufficient in food is both an existential and a moral imperative given a looming food crisis.

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Former Agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor, who also heads the Federation of Free Farmers, said political will is needed to achieve food self-sufficiency.

“If Israel has been able to turn the desert into farmlands, we can certainly do it,” said Montemayor.

Norberto Chingcuanco, convenor of the Tugon Kabuhayan and Feedmix representative, pointed out that food security, much less food self-sufficiency, cannot be achieved by importation.

David Villaluz, chairman of the Philippine Association of Fish Producers Inc., agreed that the Philippines has more than it needs but laments that “agriculture and aquaculture technical manpower are being exported.”

Chester Warren Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., suggested that government lending institutions should open its facilities to small and medium agriculture corporations, not only to large corporations thereby losing its focus on agriculture.

Agot Balanoy of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post said smuggling is the main problem of vegetable farmers. Transportation for their produce and access to capital are the other problems.