Incoming NEDA chief wants gov't to boost local agri, not depend on imports as food crisis looms

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2022 11:20 AM

Members of the media look at the BGC Urban Farm in Taguig on March 24, 2022 set up by in conjunction with the local government and advocacy groups to promote urban farming. Aside from urban farming, the place aims to encourage participation and interest in sustainability, conservation, and food security. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Members of the media look at the BGC Urban Farm in Taguig on March 24, 2022 set up by in conjunction with the local government and advocacy groups to promote urban farming. Aside from urban farming, the place aims to encourage participation and interest in sustainability, conservation, and food security. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The incoming Marcos administration must enhance the country's agricultural sector through research and no longer depend on food imports to attain food security amid the threat of crises, his socioeconomic planning chief said on Saturday. 

Arsenio Balisacan, who will head the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) under President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., said cushioning the country's poorest households from rising food prices and negative economic impact will be among the next government's priorities. 

In order to do this, Balisacan called for the strengthening of research and development in agriculture so the country may finally veer away from imports. 

"Hindi kasi pwede na nagdedepende ka lang sa imports, na itatanim kasi iba-iba yung klima natin, peste natin, soil natin, hindi naiintindihan yun minsan ng mambabatas natin. Ang pinakaimportante yung research and development," Balisacan said over ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. 

(It is not right that we depend on imports because we have different climate, pests, and soil. Sometimes that's what our lawmakers do not get. What's important is research and development.)

"'Yung investment natin sa research and development. Palakasin natin yun para ang mga magsasaka may modern varieties, new species na bagay sa kanilang lokasyon," he added. 

(We should strengthen our investment on research and development so we can farm modern varieties, new species that are apt in different areas.)

"Ang gusto ko sanang position natin, while ina-address natin 'tong short-term crises na ito (what I want is... to be able to address short-term crises while), we also take advantage of the crisis to lay down the sustainable path toward development."

He also lamented the country's slow productivity growth, noting the problems in farming that must be addressed. 

He proposed that government enhance its friendly relations with food exporting countries so it would not be affected by possible export bans.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) earlier warned that Southeast Asian countries Vietnam and Thailand might "coalesce" and raise the price of their rice exports which could lead to a P6 per kilo increase in the price of imported rice. 

"Concerned tayo na yung exporting countries ngayon ay nagpa-plano na rin sila na i-hold yung exports para maprotektahan rin nila yung kanilang citizens," said Balisacan. 

(We are concerned that exporting countries are planning to hold their exports to protect their supply and their citizens.)

"Kaya dapat malakas yung diplomatic relations natin ngayon, kailangan nakikipag-usap na tayo sa mga kaibigan nating bansa para hindi matamaan ng doon sa export policies nila. Tayo'y hindi hihigpitan lalo na yung mga kulang," he added. 

(Our diplomatic relations should be strong too. We need to talk to the countries we consider as friends so we would not be affected by their export policies.) 

Aside from these, the incoming official emphasized the need to focus on boosting the manufacturing sector in rural areas and for legislators to pass relevant laws that would kickstart developmental projects. 

Fuel prices have continued to increase in recent weeks, already affecting food production and distribution costs. The Department of Agriculture has also warned of a looming food crisis due to Russia's ongoing war with Ukraine. 

Outgoing Agriculture Secretary William Dar, meanwhile, urged the next administration to focus on "food sovereignty" so that the Philippines would not depend on agriculture imports as the Russo-Ukranian war already affected the world's food supply. 

Watch more News on iWantTFC