The government should immediately act on the rising prices of pork and other food commodities and boost the country’s food security amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Senator Christopher ‘’Bong’’ Go said on Monday.
“Kailangan natin itong solusyonan, lalong-lalo na sa panahon ngayon na marami pong mga kababayan natin ang nawalan ng trabaho. Walang pambili ng pagkain ang mga ‘yan, tataas pa ang presyo, mas lalong mahihirapan ang mga kababayan natin,’’ Go said. (We need to address this, especially at this time that many of our countrymen have lost their jobs. They do not have money to buy food, and prices are going up. Our countrymen will be in a more difficult situation.)
Go said he has been prodding the government to prioritize three important aspects towards COVID-19 recovery: (1) address hunger; (2) acquire sufficient, safe, and effective vaccines for all Filipinos with utmost priority to the poor and vulnerable sectors as well as frontliners; (3) and provide more economic opportunities through jobs and other forms of livelihood.
“Ipaglalaban po natin ang tatlong importanteng mga adhikain na ito sa loob at labas ng Senado — ang pagsugpo sa gutom; ang pagkakaroon ng sapat, ligtas, at epektibong bakuna; at ang pagpapalakas ng ekonomiya at kabuhayan ng bawat Pilipino,’’ Go said. (We will fight for these three important goals both ‘in and out’ of the Senate — (1) address hunger; (2) acquire sufficient, safe, and effective vaccines for all Filipinos with utmost priority to the poor and vulnerable sectors as well as frontliners; (3) and provide more economic opportunities through jobs and other forms of livelihood.)
“Tulad nga ng sabi ng Pangulo (As what the President has said), no one should be left behind towards recovery,” he added.
To address the concern amid the widely reported increase in prices of several meat products, Go renewed his appeal to the Executive Department to issue an Executive Order to impose a ceiling on the prices of pork and chicken in the market.
“Muli po akong umaapela sa executive department na pag-aralan ang pag-i-impose ng price ceiling sa karneng baboy at manok sa bansa upang mapigilan ang tuluy-tuloy na pagtaas nito. Marami po sa ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga minimum wage earners, ang hindi na ma-afford ito,’’ he explained. (I am reiterating my appeal to the executive department to consider the imposition of a price ceiling on pork and chicken in the country to avert a continuing rise in its prices. Most of our countrymen, especially the minimum wage earners, can no longer afford it.)
“Kung maaari po, ang gobyerno na po ang pumasan sa mga problemang ito, huwag lang po mapunta sa ordinaryong mamamayan ang dagdag na pasakit ng mahal na bilihin,’’ he added. (If it is possible, the government must subsidize it in order to ease the burden of high prices on the ordinary citizens.)
The Department of Agriculture (DA) also recommended price ceilings to prevent further price hikes in the country. It seeks to prevent opportunistic businesses from illegally manipulating the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities and help the Filipino consumers who are still affected by the pandemic.
The DA also suggested utilizing its annual Buffer Fund under Republic Act (RA) 7581 to subsidize distribution costs of pork and chicken, effectively ensuring reasonable prices in the market.
Under RA 7581, the DA may use its Buffer Fund to purchase, import, or stockpile any basic necessity or prime commodity, devise ways and means of distributing them for sale at reasonable prices in areas where there is a shortage of supply or a need to effect changes in its prevailing price.
The DA also proposed the tripling of the Minimum Access Volume on pork imports, augmenting local pork supply and, thus, keeping prices more stable.
For a more long-term approach to food security in the country, the DA has also recently launched “ONE DA: A Holistic Approach to Agriculture and Fisheries Transformation” which serves as “an integrated framework with 12 key strategies to accelerate the transformation towards a modern and industrialized Philippine agriculture through an inclusive approach.”
Go has expressed his support to the proposed interventions by the DA, saying, “Kailangang patuloy na ipatupad ang mga long-term food security solutions, katulad ng ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program at iba pa (There is a need to continue implementing the long-term food security solutions, such as the Plant, Plant, Plant’ program and others).
Go said he is optimistic that as the economy slowly re-opens, the issues of hunger and joblessness will also gradually be addressed.
To address the issue of price increase induced by animal-borne diseases such as the African Swine Fever (ASF), President Duterte has issued Executive Order (EO) 105 which created the National Task Force on Animal-Borne Diseases. This seeks to undertake activities to prevent the entry of animal-borne diseases, control their spread, and address other related issues.
Duterte also signed EO123 modifying the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under section 1611 of RA10863, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. This EO, in effect, retained the reduced five percent tariff rates imposed on mechanically deboned meat of chicken and turkey, a key ingredient of low-priced meat products often consumed by ordinary Filipinos.
“This is most welcome and I support it. This will have a huge impact on keeping prices low by keeping the tariffs low and preventing any inflationary effect,” Go said.
A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in November, 2020, revealed that an estimated four million families reported involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months prior to the study.
The number, though, is lower than the previous data gathered by SWS in September of last year where some 7.6 million reported involuntary hunger due to the pandemic.
“Hangad nating merong sapat at masustansyang pagkain sa hapag ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino,’’ Go said. (It is our intention to have sufficient and nutritious food in every table of Filipino families). That is why I keep pushing concerned agencies to implement immediate and long-term programs to address hunger in the country.)