Isko Moreno wants Filipinos to eat less rice, more veggies to cut imports, improve health

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2021 07:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2021 12:36 PM

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MANILA— Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Friday said if elected President, he would try to reduce the Philippines' rice consumption to lessen the need to import grains and to minimize health issues such as diabetes.

Under a Domagoso administration, Filipinos will be encouraged to have a shift in diet and "eat like Koreans or Japanese," the presidential aspirant said during his dialogue with agriculture stakeholders.

"Nasa 130 kilos per capita ang konsumo ng Pilipino sa bigas. Sa Japan, sa Korea nasa mga 50 [kilos] lang," he said.

(The Philippines' per capital consumption of rice is around 130 kilos. In Japan and Korea, it's around 50 kilos only.)

"Sa kanila kapag kakain ng kanin konti lang kasi maraming gulay. Tayo baliktad," he said.

(They consume less rice because they have lots of vegetables per meal. Here, it's the opposite.)

"Dahil mahal ang ulam, mahal din ang gulay kaya gagawin ng tao para mabusog siya, kanin ang titirahin niya," he said.

(Because dishes and vegetables are expensive, a person here tends to eat more rice to feel full.)

Poor Filipinos usually binge on rice as vegetables are more expensive than the staple grain, but this high rice consumption often leads to health issues like diabetes, and forces the government to import rice from other countries to keep up with the demand, he said.

His proposal is "worth understanding" as it would eventually make agricultural products more affordable, the Mayor said.

To make vegetables affordable to more Filipinos, Domagoso said his administration would invest in farming technology, and would also back intercropping and diversification of crops in farmlands.

"it’s high time to talk to our farmers to adopt new technology," the presidential aspirant said.

"Those technologies should be funded by the state. Hindi 'yung bibigyan mo lang ng traktora, ng pananim (We shouldn't just give them tractors and seedlings)," he said.

Since he began his "listening tour" across the country last month, Domagoso has been telling farmers that he would build more cold-storage facilities in rural areas to improve the quality and prolong the shelf life of their harvest.

Domagoso said he would also consider recommendations to place the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) under the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the programs of the 2 agencies are aligned.

RICE AND VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION IN PH

Rice remains the staple food in the Philippines, with 93 percent of households in the country eating it on a regular basis, according to a 2015-2016 study of the Philippine Statistic Authority.

"The country’s consumption of rice per person averaged 109.87
kilograms per year or 2.11 kilograms per week," the study read.

Filipinos' annual vegetable consumption ranged between 20 grams and 7.23 kilograms, depending on the region and the type of vegetable.

Dishes made with eggs top consumption in the Philippines with 82.33 percent of households consuming such food, followed by those made with chicken (63 percent), and then pork (62 percent), the study showed.

Fish consumption ranged between 35 and 43 percent depending on the kind, while only 9.66 percent of households consumed beef on a regular basis, the PSA said.

"If we change the habit of eating by providing more affordable vegetables… if we are going to lower the consumption of rice per capita, hindi natin kailangan mag-import nang mag-import (we don't need to import and import)," he said.

Domagoso has been wooing farmers' votes with the promise to cut imports on rice, poultry, meat and other agricultural products.

"Filipino farmers first... We should prioritize the food products of our own farmers and breeders of hog and chicken," the Manila Mayor said in one stop of his listening tour in Batangas.

"If there is a need to augment our supply, then that’s the time we can import during the latter part of the year," he said.

Should he win the 2022 presidential race, Domagoso said he would introduce the shift to a "more vegetables and less rice" lifestyle in public schools.

"Pero kahit maturuan mo ang tao, kung hindi naman available ang gulay at 'yung gulay ay imported, para lang natin tinangkilik ang gulay ng ibang bansa," he said.

(But even if we teach our people, if vegetables are not available, we would just be patronizing these crops from other countries.)

5-10 YEAR FUND FOR AGRICULTURE

The Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer is also batting for a 5- to 10-year fund for the agriculture sector should he win next year's elections.

"It's high time na 'yung mga ahensya ng gobyerno makapagplano ng dirediretso dahil 'yung funding nila garantisado," he said.

(It's high time that government agencies will be able to plan ahead because they have guaranteed funding.)

"Magkakaroon ng kapanatagan 'yung mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda... Hindi na siya aasa every year na hihingi ng pondo o magla-lobby ng pondo," he said.

(Farmers and fisherfolk will have certainty... They don't need to ask and lobby for funds every year.)

"If that's the case then it's (agricultural sector is) certain, investors will come in."

Domagoso's pitch to approve a multi-year funding for farmers and fisherfolk is much needed in the agricultural sector, said Danny Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food.

"Kailangan mai-level 'yung playing field for the producers," Fausto told ABS-CBN News.

"Agriculture should not be treated as a charity sector," he said, noting that the sector only receives 1 percent of the national budget even if it accounts for 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

A quarter of the Philippines' labor force are in agricultural industries and 75 percent of these workers are poor, he said.

"Kailangan bigyan talaga ng atensyon 'yan," Fausto said.

(That really needs to be given attention.)

"Maliwanag sa kaniya (Domagoso) na food security is national security," he said.

(It is clear to Domagoso that food security is national security.)

"I'm happy about that. I want to hear that from the rest of the presidentiables," he said.

Domagoso's other agricultural platforms include imposing a moratorium on the conversion of agricultural land, and the creation of a separate department for the fisheries sector.