MANILA - Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan admitted a “calibrated, longer period” is needed before the Philippines can achieve rice self-sufficiency.
In a round table discussion with ABS-CBN, Pangilinan believes self-sufficiency can still be achieved except that “the time table can be longer.”
He did not set a target.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier targeted to wipe out rice imports in 2013, but strong typhoons such as Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) made it difficult to achieve the goal.
The Department of Agriculture had announced that it was planning to produce 59.67 million metric tons (MMT) of unmilled rice in the next three years, which will move the target of self-sufficiency to 2016.
Asked if Alcala’s target is feasible, Pangilinan said setting targets is not part of his job.
“I think we might be able to accomplish more if we work together. I hope we can have a way to coordinate,” he said.
Calls have been made for President Aquino to choose just one of the two Cabinet secretaries to handle the agriculture sector.
Pangilinan oversees 4 agricultural agencies: the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), the National Food Authority (NFA), the Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Food and Pesticide Authority.
Alcala, meanwhile, is in charge of the rest of the agriculture bureaucracy.
Pangilinan is also seeking more private sector investment to boost agriculture output.
“For example, the annual budget of the agriculture sector is P85 billion a year. The money that flows towards fertilizer is already roughly half of that at P45 billion. On the other hand, private piggeries across the country spend P200 billion a year,” he said.
The Philippines remains a net importer of agricultural products at $2 billion a year.
ASEAN neighbor Thailand is now a net exporter at $18 billion a year, and Vietnam at $5 billion a year.
“We must move from subsistence farming to sustainable farming enterprises,” said Pangilinan.
He also urged the public to remove the prejudice that people attach to working in the agriculture sector.