MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday vowed to import rice, corn, pork, and chicken "as little as possible" even as his administration eyes to boost local production of food.
Marcos, who currently heads the agriculture department, said the measure is meant mainly to increase supply instead of lowering prices.
"I don’t think that is the primary reason for the importation that we will do now... We are going to try… I think we will do it, in the Department of Agriculture, to boost production of rice and corn in the coming two quarters, hanggang Pasko, until after Christmas," he told reporters during his first press conference in Malacañang.
"We prefer not to import. We would prefer to import as little as possible. So we should increase our own production of rice and corn. Corn, especially, became very important because the feed wheat that we were importing, na-cut off ang supply natin. So we have to substitute it with corn," he said.
The agriculture sector has earlier warned of rising food prices amid a tight supply of basic ingredients due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine is among the world's largest supplier of wheat.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan earlier told TeleRadyo that the Marcos administration might focus on the country's agricultural sector through research and no longer depend on food imports to attain food security.
Marcos also said that the country would continue importing pork, citing the "uncontrolled" outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in several areas in the country.
He said they would also push through with chicken imports amid the sector's problem with feedstock.
Once the country has increased its food production, importations would be lowered, he said.
"So if we are able to increase production sufficiently, then hopefully the importation… We really do not… It’s not really an import substitution measure. It is a strategic food supply measure," he said.
"That is why I made agriculture the single, the highest priority of everything that we are doing. Because you cannot build a strong economy unless you have a foundation of a robust econo --- a robust agricultural sector, which assures food supply even in emergencies. And that’s what we’re working towards."
Former Agriculture Secretary William Dar had urged the new 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.