MANILA - President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday instructed officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to start drafting policies to address the looming food crisis in the country.
Marcos Jr. - who earlier said that he would personally head the DA - told the agency's officials that his immediate priority is to ensure that the Philippines would have sufficient and affordable rice, corn and food supply for the rest of the year.
"We have to attend to the impending food crisis. It seems that it'll be visiting us in the next 2 quarters," he said during his meeting at the DA headquarters earlier in the day.
"We have to think very hard about making sure that it will have... sufficient food at the price they can afford. It's useless to have food if they cannot afford it," he said.
Marcos Jr. said he is not sure if there would be "enough time to also address the problem in livestock," particularly in pork and poultry.
In May, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) warned that food shortage in the Philippines is possible within the year as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues to affect food and raw material prices in the world market.
"Because we are already in a disadvantageous position in terms of food supply, we should really pay close attention to what we can do," he said.
"We have to increase our production and we have to talk about the ways that we can do it," he said.
Marcos Jr. told DA officials to forward to his office their proposed executive orders, including possibly asking Congress for a supplementary budget.
"If there are some EOs and some legislation you will need even supplementary budget, tingnan natin kung may makuha pa tayo (let's see if we can get more)," the President said.
"Do not be hesitant to make it multi-year. I don't believe you can do this in 1 year or in 3 years," he said.
Marcos also instructed DA personnel to submit a list of pros and cons about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), a free-trade agreement among the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Should the Philippines join RCEP, the deal is expected to "preserve the current preferential rates for 98.1 percent of tariff lines, which corresponds to 228 commodities or USD 16.9 billion of imports," the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said.
"The programs we talked about, just give me a baseline of what has been done para alam ko yung tinatrabaho ninyong programa (so that I would know the programs you have been working on)," the President said.
Marcos Jr. earlier declined to nominate a secretary for Agriculture, saying the President's direct supervision over the agency would "make it clear to everyone what a high priority we put on the agricultural sector."
His direct hand in the DA would also ensure that "things move quickly" within the agency that has been mired with corruption and irregularities over the decade.
MASAGANA 150, MASAGANA 200, 'REMAKE' KADIWA STORES
Marcos Jr. also instructed the DA to "operationalize" Masagana 150 and Masagana 200, 2 agriculture programs proposed named after Masagana 99, a rice production program during the administration of his father and namesake, former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The Masagana 150 seeks to produce 7.5 tons of inbred rice per hectare at P8.38 per kilogram (kg), to allow farmers to earn at least P50,000 per hectare.
The Masagana 200 targets to yield 10 tons of hybrid rice per hectare at a production cost of P7.82 per kilogram so that farmers can earn at least P70,000 per hectare.
The 2 rice-related programs were proposed by William Dar, the last DA secretary of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
"These are good plans that we have to put in place. Let's operationalize them already," Marcos said.
Marcos Jr. also toyed with the idea of "remaking" Kadiwa stores to keep up with the times.
"On the longer term, we really have to reconstruct our value chain all the way from our scientists all the way to our Kadiwa stores," he said.
"We have to remake that model. It's a very different world out there because of the technology [but] the concept is still going to be similar," he said.
Food security has been one of the key promises of Marcos before he officially took oath as the Philippines' 17th President.
In his inaugural speech, Marcos said the issue of food sufficiency would get a "preferential treatment" under his administration.
"Food is not just a trade commodity. Without it, people weaken and die. Societies come apart. It is more than a livelihood, it is an existential imperative and a moral one," he said.