Food chamber calling on Marcos to declare state of calamity for food sufficiency

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) – The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to consider declaring a state of calamity for food sufficiency to enable him to immediately address current problems and avert a food crisis.

PCAFI President Danilo Fausto said the declaration will allow Marcos, who concurrently serves as Agriculture chief, to direct local government units to tap at least 10% of their internal revenue allotment (IRA) to be channeled to agricultural production. He said the move will be timely as the Mandanas-Garcia ruling is being implemented.

“It might be necessary, I’m not saying it is, for the President to declare a state of emergency or calamity for food sufficiency. In the basis, perhaps it can be reviewed by the legal department and Malacañang, if it’s possible so that the President can encourage and direct the local government units to direct some funds for agriculture production,” Fausto said in a forum Friday.

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Under the Mandanas-Garcia ruling, funds of LGUs will be boosted by about ₱230 billion. Fausto said the declaration will translate to involving LGUs more and tapping their funds to boost agriculture production for the second part of the year. He explained this will be faster than requesting for a supplemental budget, which has to get Congress approval.

“The agriculture sector must be assisted within their area of responsibility. It will not be taken out of their area but the direction of the funds from the LGU should go to food production,” he said.

The group also cited various factors that may lead to a food crisis. Among them are low productivity in the local sector and low confidence among the private sector due to insufficient government support for local production.

Fausto said rationalizing imports and pushing for a three-cropping season can help boost local production and solve the sufficiency issue. Other suggestions in their proposal include reviewing existing policies and grants, creating mini-agro industrial centers in barangays and establishing first border quarantine facilities.

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A group of broiler farmers cited the need for support to address the current chicken supply issue. But it clarified that this is different from the shortage experienced in 2003.

“We are in a very challenging, if not a shortage in the next two quarters, if we do not get together and address this thing…. I wish to recognize the inaugural pronouncements of the president. That is a major change in direction. An emphasis on production rather than importation,” United Broiler Raisers Association President Bong Inciong said.

Hog raisers said they are thriving despite the African Swine Fever. They assured sufficient pork supply, but are struggling to keep farmgate prices low due to external factors.

“Walang shortage ang pork sa palengke, sa mercado. We have ample supply even towards the end of the year. Ang kailangan lang ay yung capacity natin palakihin natin. Logistics ay isang real challenge affecting all sectors,” Edwin Chen said.

[Translation: There is no shortage of pork in the wetmarkets and supermarkets. We have ample supply even towards the end of the year. We just need to increase our capacity. Logistics is a real challenge affecting all sectors.]

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PCAFI said they are optimistic the direction for agriculture will take a different route with the President himself at the helm. They said the government must work closely with the private sector to avert a food crisis.

Fausto said they presented their proposal to Marcos on Thursday. The President, he noted, seemed receptive to their suggestions, but said he needs to study them carefully.

Malacañang has yet to issue a statement on the proposal.