By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is still waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval for the release of as much as ₱31-billion supplemental budget, which will be used to ensure the Philippines will not run out of food amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a text message that his budget proposal for Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra sa COVID-19 (ALPAS COVID-19), though has already been approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), will still need the approval of Duterte.
Dar, however, is hopeful about securing the budget since it received “strong recommendation” from the government’s head of economic team, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.
According to Noel Reyes, DA spokesperson and assistance secretary, it should be Duterte who will instruct the Department of Finance (DOF) or Department of Budget and Management (DBM) where to source the money that the DA is asking for.
Dar earlier said that the supplemental budget proposal for ALPAS COVID-19 is in line with the mandate of the DA to “ensure a food-secure Philippines much more in time of the health emergency period”.
“With this pandemic, there is tightening of global food supply and we know that when there is not enough food, disorder is probable. While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus,” Dar said.
Bulk of the agency’s requested budget will be allotted to local rice production as well as to intensify the National Food Authority’s (NFA) local palay procurement.
This is amid the threats of a looming global food crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a warning made by United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“The FAO has been calling on countries not to restrict the flow of food around the world, but the reality is that countries are closing borders and free trade deals are being bypassed through protectionist policies that will ensure food security for their people and their respective local markets,” said SINAG Chair Rosendo So.
Several news reports showed that Kazakhstan has already banned exports of wheat flour and imposed restrictions on buckwheat, onions, carrots and potatoes, while Russia is also threatening to restrict wheat imports.
Closer to home, Vietnam has also declared temporary suspension of rice exports.
FAO said that disruption in global food supply can be expected in April and May.