MANILA - Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday blamed the country's dairy program for malnutrition in the Philippines, saying the lack of affordable milk in the country has made Filipino children "stupid."
Villar slammed an unnamed Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) official for allegedly allocating more funds for the purchase of new vehicles, instead of improving the country's dairy production.
"Partly to blame kayo sa kabobohan ng mga bata. Ang mga bata pinapainom ng milk para tumalino. Ang dairy program ay partly to blame. Kung walang available na murang gatas para sa mga bata, pano iinom ng gatas ang mga bata?" Villar told Agriculture officials in a Senate hearing.
"Itong PCC, ibibili daw niya ng sasakyan para inspeksyunin ang dairy farm... Ayan, kaya 1 percent lang," she said, referring to the country's total dairy production. Villar did not mention the source of her data.
In 2017, the Philippines imported "virtually all of its dairy products, especially milk powder, as domestic production cannot meet the country’s annual dairy demand, which was nearly 2.5 million metric tons (MMT) liquid milk equivalent (LME)," according to a United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service report.
The Philippines sources most of its dairy products from New Zealand (39 percent), the United States (21 percent), and Australia (7 percent), the USDA said.
PROGRAMS OVER PERMITS
Villar also slammed Agriculture officials for focusing on the processing of importation permits instead of "developmental programs" for farmers in the provinces.
"Palagi kayong regulatory. Palaging import permit ang inaasikaso ninyo kasi malaki ang kita sa import permit. Pag import permit busy na busy sila, pero pag developmental wala," she said.
Department of Agriculture officials present in the hearing did not refute Villar's outburst, after the senator warned them to stop allocating more funds to office expenditures.
The Philippines has been lagging behind its regional peers in the production of rice, sugar, coconut, and dairy, Villar said, citing data from the Department of Finance.
"Tigilan niyo na 'yang overhead niyo. Puro kayo overhead [expenses], wala kayong program. Kaya ang sama-sama ng Agriculture natin," she said.
"Ang daming research wala namang aggregation... Kaya walang nangyayari to make our farmers competitive kasi wala namang application ang research," she said.
She said the department should "fix" its programs because the Philippines is only competitive in crops dominated by the private sector like banana and pineapples. The committee also tackled bills that would establish vegetable gardens in schools and communities.
"Anything na pinakialaman ng gobyerno ay hindi competitive. There must be something wrong and you should not be proud of it kaya ayusin ninyo 'yung mga programa ninyo," she said.